Belfast Telegraph

Tankers fill with 23,000 litres of water every 15 minutes for Northern Ireland areas hardest hit by drought

By Stewart Robson

The hosepipe ban is having a significant effect on the water supply as workers battle a potential drought crisis, NI Water has said.

At a 'fast-fill' point in south Belfast yesterday, workers were extracting 23,000 litres of water every 15 minutes before transferring it to a reservoir in Lurgan to be treated.

As Northern Ireland basked in the heat, extraction pipes were sunk deep into the ground on Balmoral Road.

Despite a 10% decrease in public demand for water since the ban came into force last Friday, NI Water has said that staff will be on 'incident alert' until July 23.

This means the organisation may assign other roles to staff to cope with spikes in water demand.

The ban is the first since 1995, but only affects domestic ratepayers rather than businesses.

Irish Water, which manages use in the Republic, announced yesterday that a country-wide hosepipe ban will come into effect tomorrow.

Gary Curran of NI Water was present at the south Belfast extraction point yesterday.

He said some places in counties Armagh, Down and Tyrone had been impacted by the shortage last weekend.

"We had areas around Lurgan, Banbridge and Coalisland at the weekend that had very low or no pressure," he said.

"We addressed that but we're monitoring the situation and reacting when we see trends going in the wrong direction.

"We bring tankers up from a distribution system, then transport water around the province to areas that need it most.

"The tankers come up and the guys fill it up here in a very quick and efficient manner and then take it to areas where we're experiencing low pressure or supply problems."

The Balmoral Road site is the only one in Belfast, with another in Antrim and a site in Omagh.

However, the Belfast site is now the only fast-fill point being utilised.

"At the minute we've a lot of teams in place managing this 24/7. We've got a lot more information coming in that will anticipate where the demands might come and we will deal with those," Mr Curran said.

"A normal person would use around 150 litres of water per day, so you can see the benefit of being able to move 23,000 litres around the province."

NI Water has said that any breach of the hosepipe ban could cost perpetrators up to £1,000.

Mr Curran said that it is something the organisation is still monitoring closely.

"We've had a number of calls into our call centre where people have been reported to us," he added.

"We also have teams out on the ground actively looking for leakage, and in the course of that they've came across people flouting the ban.

"In the first instance we'd approach asking them to appreciate the difficulties that it's causing and to stop using water in a wasteful way.

"We're planning for the longer term here, but we will review whether we need to review the hosepipe ban or whether we can release it or suspend it temporarily. We don't want to have it on for any longer than we absolutely need to. We appreciate the difficulties that it's causing, but we need to be mindful of the long-term prospect for no rain."

Temperatures are expected to stay in the mid-20s over the next fortnight.

Charlie Pollock is a contract manager and currently works on NI Water's Project Omega, a contract to upgrade, operate and maintain wastewater treatment works across Northern Ireland. He's worked for the company for 30 years.

However, due to the increasing demand for water, he has had to adapt to an 'on-the-ground' role.

"When you have a level of experience across the business you can slot into a lot of different roles when things like this happen," he said.

"You're starting to see a bit of improvement in the system, but that's not to say we're completely out of the woods just yet."

Belfast Telegraph

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