More than 700,000 people to be impacted as Dublin faces water restrictions
Constraints on water usage will be introduced across Dublin and surrounding counties next week which could impact on tens of thousands of households and businesses in the Republic.
Restrictions are already in place across 14 counties where demand is exceeding supply, and Irish Water is expected to introduce night-time cut-offs across the Greater Dublin area as part of efforts to avoid widespread shortages coming into the autumn.
The cut-offs are expected to be between midnight and 5am but this is subject to change.
The Republic's Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy said almost 140 water supply schemes across the Republic - from a total of 900 - were at risk of failure, which could potentially impact on more than 700,000 people.
Nine across Carlow, Dublin, Galway, Laois, Offaly and Westmeath were in 'severe' drought, meaning demand was above supply. Another 51 were in drought condition, with 77 more at risk of drought across other counties. He urged households to continue to conserve supplies.
"There appears to be little prospect of getting the levels of rainfall which would alleviate the drought conditions any time soon," he told the Dail.
"I think it is prudent to introduce restrictions such as reduced water pressure at night on a much wider scale with a view to conserving our supplies.
"It is not just for July or August we need to plan, but into September and even October. The over-riding concern will be for the longer term and the supply of drinking water in late summer and autumn."
Irish Water produces more than 1.6 billion litres of water every day, but more than 40pc is lost through leaks. Some 610 million litres of water is generated across the Greater Dublin Area, with the latest data showing demand standing at 568 million litres a day - which is higher than normal consumption for this time of year.
Irish Water said restrictions were needed to conserve water and allow supplies to return to normal levels, adding they would likely affect consumers. Most households have 24-hours storage in attic tanks, so shouldn't be affected. However, there is a risk to properties at the edge of the network or on higher ground.
"Introducing restrictions was an option that Irish Water hoped could be avoided because of the inevitable impact on homes and businesses," Corporate Affairs manager Kate Gannon said.
"We are monitoring the situation, but the weather is not changing, the rain is not coming. Something has to be done to protect water supply."
A spokesman for the National Federation of Group Water Schemes said the sector, which serves more than 400,000 people, had seen a spike in demand but was "holding their own". In some cases, it was providing water to Irish Water where it had excess supply. The utility, and other private schemes, were also helping supplies at risk of running dry.
But Brian MacDonald warned: "One of the difficulties in increased demand is plants operating above their design limit.
"This is just another crisis situation which has to be managed, and it really underlines the need for forward planning on climate change."
Meanwhile, the hosepipe ban imposed in Northern Ireland last month remains in place.