A return of the hose pipe ban in Northern Ireland could be on the cards if people do not use water wisely and help lessen demand on an under pressure system.
NI Water bosses have said it is one of the options they will have to consider if demand continues as it is and temperatures remain high.
Maynard Cousley, Water Supply Senior Manager at NI Water, said their aim is to keep customers in supply 24/7 but already a number of households have experienced low pressure and intermittent supply loss.
“If the demand continues and the temperature continue, as it looks as if it’s going to do for the next few days, and demand stays where it is, we may have to look at other options and one of them could be a hosepipe ban,” he said.
“That is why we are appealing to people to use water wisely.”
He added: “It’s not something that we want to implement if we can help it and if people are careful, we believe that there’s enough water in the system and we can get enough water treated to keep customers in supply, but that’s an option we have to consider, especially if the demand stays where it is and stays high, it is something we have to consider at Northern Ireland Water.”
Maynard said demand was up right across Northern Ireland but he said there were areas of Mid Ulster experiencing dips in supply. Areas fed by Lough Fea Water Treatment Works such as Cookstown, Coagh, Stewartstown, Pomeroy, and areas fed by Castor Bay Water Treatment Works, which takes its water from Lough Neagh.
He said there’s a large area around Lurgan, Craigavon, Portadown, right down towards Newry and then west up towards Dungannon, which is coming under pressure.
“They are the areas that are under extreme pressure at the minute,” he said.
“We have technicians and engineers who are working round the clock and empty tankers moving water from one zone to another just to try to keep customers in supply.”
He said the reason some of those areas are under more pressure comes down to infrastructure and interconnectivity between water treatment plants and zones.
He also said there are some areas that are more touristy and have an influx of visitors and caravan parks filling up, as well as more people staying at home due to Covid, which is adding to demand across the country.
“People also probably realise that livestock drink a lot more water so in agricultural areas with a lot of livestock you will see demand as well,” he said.
“There are a number of factors that can feed into it.”
He said our reservoirs are sitting at around 70% capacity.
“Half the water we treat comes from reservoirs, so reservoirs are sitting at around 70% capacity, now that is not unexpected considering this is the third week in July and we’ve had a reasonably dry June and a quite warm and dry July,” he said.
“So having 70% capacity is no big surprise. This year, what we have been having over the last week is just the demand, the high temperatures and the demand for water, the demand is outstripping our supply.
“Our treatment plants are working flat out, that means we just can’t get any more water treated and that’s really the big issue at the minute.”
Maynard said treatment plants are designed to treat a certain amount of water.
NI Water normally supply 575million litres of water across Northern Ireland each day. On Wednesday and Tuesday it was around 725million.
“That’s about 145-150million litres more than normal, so that’s what’s putting the real stress on our distribution system,” said Maynard.
Maynard said rainfall may help reduce demand as people will not see the need to water the garden, and he said they had seen a reduction in demand since the weekend of around 20million litres per day – but we are still 140million litres over the norm.
He added: “If people use water wisely and just think to themselves, ‘What I am doing, is that really essential’, and I would suggest that washing your car and putting on your sprinkler in your garden, or filling a swimming pool, I would not class that essential, especially at the minute.
“So if people are careful and just use [water] for essential purposes, we have every confidence that there is enough water to go round.”
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