Irish Water is coming under pressure to take a tough stance with water-guzzling data centres as households are put under restrictions to try preserve supplies.
Night-time restrictions are already in place in parts of counties Wexford, Laois, Longford and Donegal where supplies are running low.
Urgent appeals have also been made for extra conservation efforts in parts of Galway, Kerry and Cork, with warnings that restrictions could follow.
While most water sources are coping reasonably well and are not close to the drought levels experienced in 2018, very little rain is forecast for the next week.
Irish Water is cautioning against unnecessary water usage everywhere.
But the message is falling on some sceptical ears given the enormous demands placed on water supplies by the data centre industry.
Dozens of data centres are operating around the country with cooling systems that can use 500,000 litres of water a day and multiples of that figure when temperatures soar.
Irish Water said it was in contact with major customers about their water usage.
“We actively engage with all non-domestic large water users when we see spikes in the demand to see where savings can be made to ensure water supplies are maintained for all,” the utility said.
“New data centres are now availing of water-efficient technology which minimise their requirement for water in their cooling processes thus supporting our water conservation approach and the wider sustainability agenda."
That appears to be borne out by the latest data centre to receive planning permission, the EnergyNode facility in Co Meath which was approved last week, although it says while its general operation would have an “imperceptible” impact on local water supply, it could need 1.3 million litres to boost cooling on days when temperatures exceeded 25C.
Duncan Smith, Labour spokesperson on climate action, said if better cooling technology was available, Irish Water should insist that all existing data centres retrofit.
He said it strained public goodwill to impose restrictions on households while data centres appear unaffected.
“If the technology is there now to reduce their water demand, then they should be modernising.
“We’re asking homeowners to retrofit, to spend large amounts of money in making their homes more sustainable. We should be asking the same of industry.”
Irish Water is asking householders not to water gardens or wash cars, fill paddling pools or use other large amounts of water on unnecessary activities.