As usual, the folks at Waterford Whispers News nailed it.

“Dublin Man Kneecapped For Ratting Out Neighbour’s Hosepipe Use”, declared a headline on the satirical website, with the subsequent copy stating: “Gardaí have renewed calls for people wishing to inform on neighbours illegally using hosepipes by advising them to call their Garda confidential hotline number when relaying information after a spate of punishment beatings around Dublin this weekend.”

We’re not quite there yet, thankfully, but news that a hosepipe ban has been instigated by Irish Water for the greater Dublin area, and the likelihood that it might be extended to other areas, has thrown the issue of water conservation into sharper focus.

The hosepipe ban in Dublin will run until at least July 31 and, according to Irish Water managing director Jerry Grant, parts of Kilkenny, Laois, and Limerick are also likely to have similar measures put in place because of water shortages caused by the hot, dry weather.

Despite the prevailing high-pressure systems leading to a heatwave across Ireland and the UK, only the North and one area of northern England has so far put a hosepipe ban in place. Thames Water, for example, said yesterday there were no restrictions on usage currently in London.

Mr Grant told RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland programme that the country is now “in a crisis situation”.

With the warm weather set to continue, the problem is most acute in the Dublin where, at one point last week, the daily volume of water being taken out of the system exceeded the daily amount that can be produced by various schemes servicing the capital.

Effectively, any use of a hosepipe is prohibited.

Anything that needs watering, such as plants, must be done by a watering can to be filled from a tap.

Mare Kelly and Helen Fox look to cool down amid the heat in Portmarnock.
Mare Kelly and Helen Fox look to cool down amid the heat in Portmarnock.

An Irish Water spokesperson said its “top priority” during the current dry period is to protect the water supply for use in homes and businesses.

We do have powers of enforcement but our priority right now is ensuring that water is conserved to the highest degree possible,” said the spokesperson. “We trust that most people will take the necessary measures for the greater good.

That message has come through loud and clear, from Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s plea for households to use water sensibly to Mr Grant’s focus on “peer pressure” to ensure wastage is limited. The usual call centre number, 1850 278 278, is in operation while anyone found to be flouting the conservation order could face a €125 fine and a subsequent prosecution if they fail to pay it.

A hosepipe ban is already in place in the North and penalties there for flouting it are tougher.

“The ban is being enforced by NI Water and is a criminal offence that is prosecutable by NI Water,” said a spokesperson. “If penalties were to be imposed they can include a fine of up to £1,000.”

A hosepipe ban is not seen as a long-term solution, however.

Irish Water said: “Work on the leakage reduction programme is ongoing as normal, Irish Water is investing €500m over the next five years in replacing the ageing water network.

“The hosepipe ban is currently for domestic customers in the Dublin area, there are currently no plans to introduce a country-wide ban, although we continue to review the situation on a daily basis.

“However, we again wish to highlight that all water users conserve water wherever possible for the greater good of all communities nationwide.

“The primary purpose of these orders is to mobilise maximum public support and engagement on minimising water use during the crisis. Similar drought orders have been introduced in Northern Ireland and in British water utilities and operate by mobilising public support for responsible behaviour.”

Water UK, the body which oversees water provision across Britain, posted a range of tips to customers, including taking a shower instead of a bath (could save 40 litres of water); allowing a bath to be an inch lower than usual (save five litres); turning off sprinklers in the garden; turning off the tap while brushing your teeth; and checking for and repairing any domestic leaks.

Beatrice Emeral and Arya Conway, 5, from Malahide with dog Ted
Beatrice Emeral and Arya Conway, 5, from Malahide with dog Ted

The good weather looks set to stay for a while, and the hosepipe bans could still be in place even after the rain returns.

The conservation message seems to be getting through: Lord Mayor of Dublin Nial Ring declared the importance of saving water and noted “for that reason I have made the decision that the Lord Mayor’s official car will not be washed until the hosepipe ban has been lifted”.

Beat that, WWN.

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