Four weeks ago, Irish Water urged the public to choose handwashing over power washing due to the increase in domestic water usage as people stayed at home in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, the increased domestic demand and increase in commercial demand as businesses are reopening is being exacerbated by warm weather and the widespread emergence of drought conditions.
The Water Conservation Order has been issued in a bid to safeguard water supplies for essential purposes. Advertisements will appear in the national newspapers today (Monday, 08 June 2020) in line with statutory requirements outlining the prohibition of the use of garden hoses and other non-essential uses of water.
Met Éireann has confirmed that May 2020 was the driest since 1850. Their data show that temperatures were above average in nearly all areas and rainfall totals in every county were below average for the season, with the Greater Dublin Area, Westmeath, Sligo and Tipperary experiencing their driest spring on record. Since March, Irish Water has been carefully monitoring all of its raw water sources, that is the water from lakes, rivers, springs and ground sources that feed water treatment plants. Of Irish Water’s 900 drinking water schemes, 27 currently are in drought and 50 are at risk of going into drought. The weather forecast is for a continuation of drier than normal conditions which will further exacerbate the situation.
Irish Water’s data show dramatic spikes of water usage on very sunny days. During the June Bank holiday, the exceptionally warm weather saw an equivalent daily increase of water usage for an additional 200,000 people being used in the Greater Dublin Area. This increase in demand was replicated across the country. Given the current pressures on the water sources, this level of demand cannot be accommodated in the coming weeks.
The amount of rainfall needed to replenish supplies varies around the country and is site specific. However, Irish Water estimates that a minimum accumulation of 100 millimetres rainfall spread over a number of weeks would be required, and normal rainfall levels after that, before the threat to water sources would pass.
The Water Conservation Order prohibits the use of garden hosepipes and other non-essential uses of water by domestic users and commercial premises for non-commercial activities, for example watering gardens attached to a business premises. The Water Conservation Order (hosepipe ban) will be in place until midnight on Tuesday, 21 July 2020.
Niall Gleeson, Managing Director of Irish Water, says: “Irish Water’s top priority during the current dry period is to protect our water supply for use in homes and businesses and for essential sanitation during the Covid-19 crisis. As demand continues to outstrip supply and the dry weather looks set to continue, Irish Water has taken the extra step of implementing a Water Conservation Order.
“It is very clear from Irish Water’s data that that warm weather creates a surge in demand of water. Such weather brings people into their gardens and makes the use of hoses more likely. Similarly with children confined to home, it can be tempting to use paddling pools, etc.; however, using a hosepipe for one hour is the equivalent of the daily water usage of an average family and this is evidently a non-essential use of water.”
”Irish Water will continue to analyse water consumption levels nationally while the National Water Conservation Order is in place. It is essential that our water supply is protected if we are to avoid restrictions and outages over the coming weeks and months.”
“During this time we are supporting and advising our commercial large water users on their conservation efforts and we are grateful for all of the measures they have taken so far. We are also working with our Local Authority partners and others to ramp up leak detection and repair, particularly in water stressed areas.”
“There are lots of helpful tips for conserving water on www.water.ie but the key messages are to leave the hose and the pressure washer in the shed; don’t use paddling pools; reuse household water for the garden; and take shorter showers. Safeguarding the supply of water is essential at this time when handwashing and hygiene is of critical importance. We are calling on everyone to play their part.”
With respect to the Water Conservation Order, the prohibited uses are as follows:
Use of water drawn through a hosepipe or similar apparatus for the purpose of: