Donal Hickey: Demand for water to soar

If the Donegal postman and amateur weather forecaster has it right, we could be in for water shortages in the coming months. Michael Gallagher, who predicted the scorching summer of 2018 and the 2010 freeze-up, says we’ll have a ‘lovely’ summer.
Donal Hickey: Demand for water to soar

If the Donegal postman and amateur weather forecaster has it right, we could be in for water shortages in the coming months. Michael Gallagher, who predicted the scorching summer of 2018 and the 2010 freeze-up, says we’ll have a ‘lovely’ summer.

On top of a prolonged dry spell of more than two months, there’s been a 20% increase in water usage by households since the coronavirus hit. Irish Water has asked people to watch their consumption of the precious liquid and, at the time of writing, there are no signs of major weather changes.

With more businesses reopening, we will see a rise in demand as more water will be needed for cleaning workplaces. So, anything the Water Forum — the independent body which advises on water issues — has to say is worth heeding.

River and groundwater levels have dropped significantly. But, the forum points out, there is no publicly available forecasting tool available to see whether our localities are under water stress and whether we should be considering how we use our water on a daily basis. “Our experiences of the drought in summer 2018 and how our water consumption reduced following a campaign for water conservation by Irish Water show that we can take responsibility and reduce our water consumption when needed,” says the forum’s research lead, Dr Alec Rolston.

If dry conditions persist, how water conservation measures may be introduced at a time when water and hygiene are crucial to combatting the spread of the pandemic remains to be seen.

Everybody realises how vital water is. Yet, is there anything we take so much for granted in this country? As the Water Forum points out, we do not sufficiently value our waters or the water which flows freely from our taps. But what can be done?

Dr Rolston says we need to take collective responsibility for how we value our waters. The Government must invest further in protecting and restoring water, while Irish Water must protect and improve our drinking water supplies, our infrastructure and our wastewater treatment.

“The agricultural sector plays a vital role in Ireland’s economy and way of life and it is essential that the sector is included in solutions for improving water quality. The general public must also play its part,” he adds.

The Government is undertaking a public consultation process to identify significant water management issues which impact on our waters and water quality. This is an opportunity to have a say in how quality can be improved.

“We shouldn’t accept that our waters are deteriorating in quality, or that raw sewage is still being pumped into our rivers and coastal waters,” Dr Rolston states.

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