A four-week hosepipe ban is to come into effect for West Cork from midnight on Tuesday, after “unprecedented low” rainfall levels and increased demand from tourism and agriculture put water supplies in the area under “severe stress”.
espite the recent period of hot, dry weather, there are currently no plans to extend the ban to other parts of the country.
The State-owned utility company Irish Water issued a Water Conservation Order for West Cork, which bans the non-essential use of water, such as the use of garden hosepipes and filling paddling pools.
Irish Water said that since November 2021, rainfall in West Cork has been below average every month, except last June, when compared with previous rainfall levels.
Over the last two weeks in Sligo, we’ve had 37mm. Hence West Cork is struggling, there’s increased demand this time of year with tourists visiting the area, and also the agricultural demandMargaret Attridge, Irish Water
It said that it would take six to eight weeks of rainfall to replenish its water stocks.
“There was only 6.3mm of rain at the weather station in Roches Point between August 14 and 23, compared with 18.4mm in Mullingar, Co Westmeath and over 32mm in Markree Castle, Sligo,” it said.
“With Eireann is forecasting a further spell of dry, warm weather for the next two weeks, which will increase the pressure on already depleted water supplies.”
Irish Water said it is currently working with Cork County Council to tanker water to three of the 30 water supplies affected, with a potential need for tankering to additional supplies in the West Cork area in the next two weeks.
Margaret Attridge, acting head of asset operations at Irish Water, told RTE Radio that the increase in demand in West Cork was partly due to “unprecedented low levels of rainfall through November into January”, when its water supplies usually fill up to meet demand during the summer period.
This has led to water levels at surface water and ground water sources in West Cork being “reduced to historic lows”.
“In July, rainfall was 76% below average, and even since the recent heatwave, in West Cork in particular, we’ve only had 7mm of rainfall,” she told RTE.
“Over the last two weeks in Sligo, we’ve had 37mm. Hence West Cork is struggling, there’s increased demand this time of year with tourists visiting the area, and also the agricultural demand.”
Irish Water had expected for the demand pressure on water supplies to drop following the hot weather spell, but that demand stayed “significantly above average” in recent weeks, leading to the decision to impose a hosepipe ban.
In the other areas experiencing challenges we have been able to maintain supplies to date through interventions such as tankering to reservoirs and pressure managementIrish Water
Ms Attridge said that one hour of using a hose in a garden uses 1,000 liters of water, which would be the equivalent of a family of four’s usage for a day.
People in the area are being urged to refrain from using hoses and power washers, advised to use recycled water in their gardens and also to take shorter showers.
In a statement to the PA news agency, Irish Water said that “at present there are no plans” to extend the Water Conservation Order to other areas.
“Irish Water has been carefully monitoring all of its raw water sources nationwide throughout the summer. The majority of Ireland’s 750 public water supplies continue to meet the demand for water supply,” a spokesperson said.
“However the warm and dry summer has impacted on a number of other supplies around the country, particularly in coastal areas.
“At present there are 39 locations nationwide where Irish Water is implementing measures to maintain supplies. These include West Cork as outlined, and also parts of Wexford, Limerick, Galway and Tipperary.
“In the other areas experiencing challenges we have been able to maintain supplies to date through interventions such as tankering to reservoirs and pressure management.
“However, it is important that everyone continues to conserve water for essential use in order to maintain supplies for homes, businesses and essential services over the coming weeks and months.”