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Tuesday 20 March 2018

Water cuts threat to 1.4m homes unless we get more downpours

Paul Melia

UP to 1.4 million homes continue to face the prospect of water restrictions, despite the rain of recent days.

Not enough rain is falling in Wicklow where the main reservoirs serving Dublin, Wicklow and Kildare are located, Dublin City Council warned last night.

And it said that heavy rain must fall there by the second week of July or it will be forced to introduce restrictions across the capital and surrounding counties.

The lack of rainfall means that back-up supplies in Poulaphouca and Roundwood reservoirs are running low which could result in loss of pressure or night-time restrictions for thousands of households.

Just 115 days' worth of back-up supply is now in place -- a drop of five days since the council issued warnings about possible restrictions less than two weeks ago.

It would like to have about 150 days supply coming into the summer as demand increases when the weather turns warmer.

"We've lost about five days and we're continuing to lose because we're not getting anything in," Dublin City Council executive engineer Brian Smyth said. "We need rain to get us out of this situation.

"There's a common perception that it's been bucketing rain and that the problem is easing but unfortunately it didn't rain in Wicklow where the Poulaphouca reservoir is. Met Eireann is forecasting showers but not a lot of rain falling in Wicklow.

"We will have a problem unless we get rain. We need a lot of steady rain by the first or second week in July."


Normally about 150 days of untreated water is held in reserve at reservoirs in Poulaphouca, Roundwood and Bohernabreena, which serve the city and large parts of Kildare and Wicklow.

The council supplies an average of 545 million litres of water a day, but conservation measures from households including not watering their lawns, turning off the tap when brushing teeth and taking showers instead of baths is having a positive effect.

Average daily demand is now at 525 million litres daily -- a drop of 20 million litres.

"That drop is partly to do with people doing what they're supposed to be doing," Mr Smyth said.

"But when the temperature rises, demand goes up. We need people to help us, and all that will do is push further away the day when we might have to introduce restrictions. We're trying to stave off the day when we have to do something."

Some 115 days' worth of supply is in storage, compared with 120 days on June 2 last when the council first issued warnings about possible restrictions.

The shortage comes because rainfall so far this year is well below expected levels. Unless the situation improves, homes and businesses face night-time cut-offs and a loss of pressure.

Water has not been rationed during summer months since 1997, although there have been restrictions during winter.

Local authorities have powers to impose a hosepipe ban which would compel people to stop watering the garden, washing their cars or fill paddling pools. On-the-spot fines of €125 can be imposed.

Met Eireann expects today to be mostly dry, with heavy showers developing on Thursday and wet weather for Friday and Saturday.

Irish Independent

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