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Why the €300 water bill is just around the corner

THINK back to when you brushed your teeth this morning. Did you leave the tap running while you scrubbed your molars and incisors?

It might seem like a minor wastage, but turning off the tap would save a whopping 7,000 litres of water every year. And with the city's water supply under strain, it's a saving that Dublin City Council believes we can't afford to ignore.

We may take our daily supply of water for granted, but the Big Freeze in January has left major leaks in the system. And it's estimated every home will soon be getting a €336 water bill.

Having taken a tour behind the scenes of the city's water service, the Herald can confirm there's a huge amount of work involved in providing this valuable commodity.

Dublin City Council's water service provides treated water to the county's three other local authorities as well as Wicklow and Kildare, with a total treated water capacity of 518 million litres. It might sound like a lot, but with an average daily demand of 540 litres, the service is constantly under strain.

"We don't produce as much water as we need," explained Brian Smyth, executive manager of Water Services.


"In January this year there was a huge drain on the water supply. Demand went up to 570 million litres per day. It drained the treated water reservoir".

City manager John Tierney said: "When the conservation message was put out, people panicked.

"There was an element of hoarding, and some people were leaving taps running to avoid pipes freezing".

Quite simply, the figures for water treatment and consumption just don't add up, because only so many litres can be treated each day.

The country's largest water treatment plant, at Poulaphouca, in Co Wicklow, has 154 days' water supply, but has a total capacity of 200 days.

An expansion project means the plant will have an additional 43 million litre capacity by the end of the year. Furthermore, a new report suggests that extraction from the River Liffey source is reaching its maximum, so that Dublin City Council may have to look towards the River Shannon. In any case, the threat of a shortage looms large.

Hopefully the imminent introduction of domestic water charges will encourage Dubliners to think twice about their water usage.

The arrival of meters in Dublin schools has had a significant impact, explained Water Conservation Officer Sinead Hourihane, who presides over a programme of information and education for students.

She explained: "Some schools would have been facing bills of €20,000 or €30,000, sometimes because of private site leakage. But with awareness and by making changes they have brought their usage down to €1,000 or €2,000."

Making water safe to drink is a huge operation. At the vast plant at Ballymore Eustace, it takes about four hours for raw water to undergo a complete cleansing and purifying process. It then undergoes rigorous testing.

It's estimated that each person uses an average of 150 litres per day, but just three or four litres are used for drinking. The rest comes from food preparation, toilet flushing, showers, clothes and dish washing and outdoor use.