Public urged to change mindset on water usage

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Irish Water has pleaded with the public to report leaks and “change their mindset on water usage”, advising that measures being put in place to deal with water shortages could last for months.

Met Éireann said there was no rainfall forecast over the coming 10 days. Forecaster John Eagleton said: “I don’t think I have ever seen a ‘zero’ [ml of rainfall] in a 10-day forecast.”

With a hosepipe ban in place in Dublin and likely to be extended to some other areas, Irish Water said it was now looking ahead to months later in the year when the current lack of rainfall could have a longer-term effect.

An Irish Water spokesperson said: “The weather has been dry since late February this year with Met Éireann reporting that the level of rain that has fallen is on par with 1976 when a major drought was in place. It is likely that the measures we are taking will be in place for weeks, if not months.

Based on modelling previous dry years and allowing for how dry the ground now is, we need to maximise conservation of raw water at this time to secure our needs over the coming months.

The water conservation order for the greater Dublin area is in place until July 31 at least and Irish Water said wider water restrictions “may become unavoidable if the demand does not drop towards normal levels”.

Irish Water said it does have powers of enforcement, but, speaking in Limerick, Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe said: “I’m sure Irish Water will take all steps that are necessary to avoid people having to go to prison in relation to how they use their water.”

Farmers have already expressed concern over animal health and crop and fodder supply due to the continuing dry spell. The Department of Agriculture said a Teagasc-led fodder group comprising industry, farm bodies, banks, and agricultural media had been tasked with providing guidance to farmers on grazing and feeding options.

A Department of Agriculture spokesman said: “Crops may be affected to varying degrees in the ongoing dry spell with spring-sown cereal crops particularly affected, while horticulture crops require more water than normal to maintain output.”

Another effect of the hot weather has been a rise in the number of people presenting with heat-related conditions, led by serious sunburn.

Emergency medicine consultant at Tallaght University Hospital, Dr Jim Gray, told RTÉ that the hospital’s emergency department had seen a number of patients with serious sunburn presentations, as well as a rise in presentations due to constipation related to dehydration and of patients who had collapsed due to the heat.

The HSE has issued guidelines regarding how best to deal with the hot weather, including the need to keep babies and older people properly hydrated.

Dr Kevin Kelleher, HSE assistant national director for public health and child health, said: “Those with a serious chronic illness, older people, babies, and young children are especially at risk from the consequences of overheating or heat exhaustion.

Figures from Kantar Worldpanel for the 12 weeks to June 17 showed an extra €27m earned by the grocery sector, with a 12% increase in sales of ice cream, a 10% rise in sales of barbecue foods, and an 8% increase in sales of suncare products.

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