Water levels in almost nine out of 10 rivers are running below normal as the extent of the drought is revealed.
An assessment carried out on the country's main water sources has found 86pc of rivers and 75pc of lakes have levels below normal for this time of year, along with 60pc of groundwater sites.
The percentage below normal tells just part of the story. In the case of rivers, 33pc are classified as running 'particularly low' while for lakes, the figure is 40pc.
In total, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) checked the levels and flows in 166 rivers sites, 40 lakes and 49 groundwater monitoring wells.
That was the assessment for May and if anything, the first week of June will have worsened the situation with insufficient rain falling to even halt the decline never mind replenish supplies.
Irish Water's own monitoring backs this up. When the utility issued a warning just over a week ago that it may have to introduce a water conservation order, or hosepipe ban, it said 16 of its drinking water supplies were already in drought and 38 were at risk of going into drought.
A week later when it announced the six-week hosepipe ban that takes effect today, the numbers had shot up to 27 supplies in drought and 50 at risk.
Those supplies serve hundreds of thousands of people in 21 counties. Only Cavan, Monaghan, Meath, Leitrim and Longford have so far escaped the drought warning.
Lack of rain is the underlying issue. May was the driest since 1850 across the country while the Greater Dublin Area, Westmeath, Sligo and Tipperary have all had their driest spring on record.
But the problem is exacerbated by growing demand for water with extra handwashing and cleaning becoming the norm in the effort to stave off coronavirus. Added to that is the effect of the good weather in bringing gardening enthusiasts out to tend to thirsty plants, cooped up children enjoying paddling pools and laid-up cars getting their first wash after weeks stuck on driveways.
Water said the spate of wildfires in recent months has also affected supplies locally as fire services battled to bring some very large forest and gorse blazes under control, although without metering the utility said it could not accurately quantify the impact.
Businesses reopening this week, sooner and in greater numbers than expected, is also likely to cause further strains.
It is a perfect storm, only without the rain.
But there is another factor that some observers fear could intensify this blast of bad news and that is public indifference, or perhaps more fairly, crisis fatigue.
Dr Tom Collins, chairperson of government advisory body, the Water Forum, said many people probably still remember the exceptionally wet winter and have not yet grasped the seriousness of the current situation.
"I think people are trying to come to terms with the swing from flooding in February to drought in June," he said.
"But there is also probably an element of fatigue in the community because of Covid-19 and probably a sense that one crisis should be enough to cope with in a year. I think people are not ready to cope with more dire warnings."
Unfortunately, Dr Collins can only add to them. "The likelihood is that even a wet summer is unlikely to replenish the reservoirs, and there is no indication so far of a wet summer, so I think it probably will get worse before it gets better."
Professor Fiona Regan of Dublin City University's Water Institute is also concerned the public's mind might be on other things.
She is a big fan of the way Northern Ireland Water sells its message about water conservation.
"They put out all the same messages as Irish Water but they're colourful and simple and I'm looking at them and thinking how well they are explaining it and how they make me want to conserve water," she said.
"We still have something to learn here about how to tell a story about valuing water and our role as citizens in conserving it."
Prof Regan believes the law has a role in that story. "Water conservation is not a planning regulation, so we don't require rainwater harvesting or grey water recycling in our buildings. If there isn't a requirement in law, it's hard to get people to see it as a requirement in practice," she added.
"Suddenly there's a requirement now because there's a water conservation order but it needs to be a way of thinking at all times."
Dr Collins agreed. "We have a very poorly developed culture and infrastructure for water conservation. We have the assumption that it rains a lot and there is a ready availability of water. Two droughts a year apart tells us otherwise."
Irish Water has advice on conserving water at home on its website at water.ie.
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