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Press Release: Water Conservation Order ‘increasingly likely’ as demand for water soars and drought conditions prevail

Monday 1 June 2020: Irish Water has confirmed that it is ‘increasingly likely’ that a Water Conservation Order, more commonly known as a hosepipe ban will have to be put in place following increased demand on water and deteriorating drought conditions. This comes during the ongoing Covid-19 crisis, when handwashing and hygiene remain critically important.
Two weeks ago, Irish Water, urged the public to choose handwashing over power washing as domestic water usage increased by an average of 20% as more people were staying at home in response to the Covid-19 crisis. Advertisements are currently running on radio and social media advising the public on tips to save water in the garden and in the home.
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.
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 our water treatment plants. Of Irish Water’s 900 drinking water schemes, 16 currently are in drought and 38 are at risk of going into drought. The weather forecast is for continued dry conditions which will exacerbate the situation and Irish Water’s data shows spikes of water usage on very sunny days.
To instigate a Water Conservation Order strict criteria must be met under the Water Services Act 2007. Irish Water needs to be able to demonstrate that ‘a serious deficiency of water available for distribution exists or is likely to exist’.
Irish Water is currently gathering this data and if the current trend continues the likelihood is that a hosepipe ban will have to be imposed. Regardless of the outcome of this process and irrespective of whether a formal Water Conservation Order is in place or not Irish Water is again appealing to all customers to conserve water for essential use.
Speaking about the developing situation, the Head of Customer Operations in Irish Water Yvonne Harris said,
“We are appealing to the public to redouble their efforts in conserving water in the home and in the garden. With so many people staying at home during the Covid-19 crisis, domestic demand for water increased by 20% at a time when our water treatment plants were working at maximum capacity.
“The decrease in the commercial use of water could not off-set the increase in domestic demand. Some of our highest water users include hospitals, food and pharmaceutical manufacturing and data centres, all of which used the same amount of water as normal during the Covid-19 crisis.
“The prolonged dry weather has exacerbated the demand on water. A drought means that the water sources like rivers, lakes, springs and ground water that supply the treatment plants are struggling, so at a time when all of the water we produce is being used, the amount we can produce is under threat in several areas around the country.
“On Saturday, it was warm and sunny in the Greater Dublin Area and Irish Water data shows that the demand on water exceeded all previous levels. The equivalent of water supply for an extra 200,000 people was used in one day in this area alone. However this is not just a Dublin issue, the levels of demand being experienced nationally cannot be accommodated and run the risk of households not having an adequate supply of water for essential hand washing hygiene.
“Imposing a Water Conservation Order is not a measure that Irish Water wants to take but it is increasingly likely that we will have to do so. It is essential that our water supply is protected if we are to avoid restrictions and outages over the coming weeks and months.
“There are lots of helpful tips for conserving water on water.ie but the key things 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.”

UPDATE 03/06/2020: Irish Water’s Managing Director Niall Gleeson on the deteriorating situation in relation to water supplies across the country

National Water Conservation Order likely as drought conditions prevail

I am contacting you all today to let you know that it is highly likely that Irish Water will soon need to impose a national Water Conservation Order, more commonly known as a ‘hosepipe ban’, as demand for treated water has soared over the past few weeks and drought conditions around the country have deteriorated further.
Since March, Irish Water has been carefully monitoring water levels in the lakes, rivers, springs and ground sources that feed our water treatment plants. 16 water supplies currently meet the ‘drought’ definition and 38 further supplies are at risk of going into drought. The long range weather forecast for continued dry conditions will exacerbate the situation and Irish Water’s meter data shows significant spikes in water usage on very sunny days.
Strict criteria must be met under the Water Services Act 2007 for us to impose a Water Conservation Order and we must be able to demonstrate that ‘a serious deficiency of water available for distribution exists or is likely to exist’. Our technical teams have indicated that if the current trend continues a National Water Conservation Order is unavoidable. In the meantime, given the critical levels of water supplies across the country we must appeal once again to all customers to conserve water for essential use.
On 11th May we launched a national public information campaign which will run throughout the summer urging the public to choose handwashing over power washing as domestic water usage increased by an average of 20%. Large commercial water users including hospitals, food producers, pharmaceutical manufacturing and data centres, continued to need significant volumes of water and demand from business is likely to increase further when further Covid-19 restrictions are lifted.
The focus of our campaign remains on reducing non-essential use to make sure we can maintain supplies for handwashing and hygiene to protect public health. Last Saturday 30th May, a warm sunny day, demand for treated water in Greater Dublin went up by the equivalent demand of an extra 200,000 people in a single day. Similar spikes were seen in other parts of the country.
The advice for households is simple. Don’t use a hose to water the garden and turn off the pressure washer. Don’t use large paddling pools, reuse household water for the garden; and take shorter showers. Every litre of water saved counts and we can all work together to make an important difference. Any support you can give to this important campaign by sharing our Twitter Facebook and LinkedIn posts would be very much appreciated.
www.water.ie/conserve
Keep in touch
Water conservation will be critical through the summer months as Irish Water continues to work to support the easing of Covid-19 restrictions across the country in the weeks and months ahead. Our focus is on safely maintaining water services and delivering our key investment projects to improve water services across the country.
Check our website and follow our customer channels on Twitter Facebook and LinkedIn for ongoing updates and don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions.
Thank you.
Niall Gleeson.

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Monday, 1 June, 2020 - 11:00 to Tuesday, 2 June, 2020 - 11:00
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