Tuesday 12 December 2017

Water treatment plants struggle to meet demand

A flock of birds brave the winter conditions and gusty winds near Dollymount Strand in Dublin yesterday
A flock of birds brave the winter conditions and gusty winds near Dollymount Strand in Dublin yesterday

Paul Melia and Ralph Riegel

Water treatment plants are struggling to meet demand -- with some being forced to produce greater volumes of clean water than they were designed for.

Environment Minister John Gormley has admitted that old pipes are not being replaced as often as needed, and that it will take at least 10 years to upgrade the water distribution system.

His comments came as households across the country learned they will continue to experience restrictions into the weekend as local authorities desperately try to restore storage levels in reservoirs.

Although the situation has improved across the country, water restrictions remain in place in Dublin, Cavan, Clare, Sligo and Cork.

Dublin City Council warned that areas will be cut off until at least the weekend because the recovery of water levels at its reservoirs has been less than expected.

The council had hoped to shut off supply to areas every second night, but just 25 million litres were saved on Monday, half the amount hoped for.

The council wants to have two days' supply of water stored before restrictions can be eased.

"The return to work this morning after the Christmas/ New Year holiday period has brought an expected rise in demand," a spokesman said.

"It will be a number of days before the full impact of this rise on drinking water storage levels can be assessed. It is therefore necessary to continue with restrictions for the rest of this week and through the weekend."

In Cork, council engineer Aidan Weir warned that demand for water in some areas is now running at 25pc higher than what can be produced.

Water restrictions have been eased, but stand-pipes will remain in place in some areas due to ongoing pressure issues.

Cork City Council yesterday warned that one plant in the city is treating 3.7 million litres of water a day because of unprecedented demand, despite being designed to produce just 2.8 million litres.

In the north of the county, outside Mallow, one water treatment facility has a design capacity of 3.4 million litres per day -- but has been producing 4.5 million litres over recent days to cope with massive demand.


"It is going to remain a struggle for us to treat enough water," Mr Weir said.

While most businesses reopened yesterday, schools return next week, which will put even more pressure on the system.

Mr Gormley said that decades of under-investment meant it would take a decade to upgrade the distribution system.

"It (funding) will never be enough because we're dealing with decades of under-investment," Mr Gormley said."If we continue at the rate of investment right now we can do the job within 10 years."

Local authorities have warned of people posing as council staff calling to homes. Dublin City Council said homeowners should not allow people into their homes unless they produced identification.

Meanwhile, the chief executive of Northern Ireland Water (NIW) Laurence MacKenzie resigned last night over his organisation's mishandling of the region's water crisis.

Mr MacKenzie, who had held the £250,000 (€293,000) post since 2009, faced huge criticism after tens of thousands of homes and business were left without water over Christmas. One hundred homes remained without water up to last night.

Irish Independent

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