More than 10,000 households will be hit with water restrictions by tomorrow night as Irish Water warns that further cut-offs are “unavoidable” due to increased demand.
The main sources of raw water for Dublin, Kildare, Meath and Wicklow have dropped at rates similar to droughts in 1975, 1976 and 1995, and the utility expects to impose restrictions in Athlone tomorrow night, which will affect some 8,000 customers.
Some 1,000 households in Kilkenny, 150 on the Aran Islands and 1,300 in Longford are already hit, it added.
It warned that cut-offs in the capital and surrounding counties will have to be introduced as the dry spell continues and demand spikes.
Overnight on Monday, some 609 million litres were consumed in the Greater Dublin Area (GDA) but the utility can only produce 610 million, meaning there is no spare capacity in the event of a mains burst or problem at a treatment plant.
The main sources of raw water for the GDA have dropped, with Pollaphuca levels some 1.73 metres below the maximum recorded this year. While this was sufficient for the present, if demand remained high and the dry spell was prolonged, it could result in problems.
Last summer, an average of 565 million litres of water was consumed every day, but this has risen since the dry spell began.
Last Friday, some 602 million litres was used – but overnight on Monday it rose to 609 million, which left “almost no margin of supply over demand”.
The issues are replicated in many schemes across the country, where supply and demand is under pressure.
“Demand for water is increasing while levels in rivers and lakes are dropping significantly, which means that there is less water available to treat and supply to homes and businesses,” Irish Water said.
“To minimise the risk of supply failure, we need to conserve water in our sources including rivers, lakes and groundwater and avoid overstressing the production and distribution systems.”
While restrictions have already been imposed, parts of Donegal and Mullingar in Westmeath are also identified as being at risk.
There is ample supply in the cities of Galway, Cork, Limerick and Waterford.
Irish Water corporate affairs manager Kate Gannon urged the public to reduce consumption, saying that leaks were being fixed but improvements would not be sufficient to boost supplies.
“If the drought is prolonged, water restrictions would become unavoidable given the trends,” she said.
“We need the public’s support to reduce water usage. The top three measures that people can take are not using a hose to water the garden or wash cars, keeping paddling pools very shallow if they are being used and taking short showers rather than baths.
“Our drought management team is monitoring the situation daily across the country and we intend to provide regular updates nationally and at regional level, so that the public is aware of the position as it develops.
“This is a very serious situation. Every effort the public makes to conserve water will help to minimise risk of supply loss to them and their community.”
The utility said that restrictions would be imposed in Athlone tomorrow from the Annagh reservoir between 10pm and 6am, but that customers at the extremity of the network could be affected for longer.
The town centre and hospital would not be affected. Restrictions are in place since last Thursday on the Bennettsbridge supply in Kilkenny between 7pm and 6am, and supply may be disrupted to areas served by the Granard and Lettergonnell schemes in Longford.