Belfast Telegraph

Lindy McDowell: Rain, hail or shine and with our politicians all dried up... we can confidently forecast the weather will catch us unprepared

Hot spell: a road at Spelga Dam in the Mournes which is normally under water
Hot spell: a road at Spelga Dam in the Mournes which is normally under water

By Lindy McDowell

Northern Ireland has just had the hottest June in record. But needless to say this happy climactic news has its downside. Thus far, a hosepipe ban. And, if the good weather keeps up, how long before even more rigorous water rationing?

In a place where 'outlook dull with scattered showers' is the usual summer norm, the spate of Mediterranean heat has come as a bit of a surprise. A pleasant surprise, generally welcomed. But a surprise nonetheless.

And it's certainly putting a strain on the water supplies. How come, consumers ask, that in a place where we haven't been short of precipitation for months (indeed years), we're now low on l'eau?

The answer, according to Northern Ireland Water, is that the level of treated water is in shorter supply due to knock-on demands as a result of the heatwave.

As well as the hosepipe ban, they're now asking householders to check for dripping taps, don't leave taps running when you're cleaning your teeth and generally try to be as frugal as possible with water.

All good sensible advice that nobody could argue with. But is there not something telling - and odd - about the fact that all it takes is a few weeks of decent summer weather and we're on the brink of, well, not having a brink.

Why is it in Northern Ireland we so often find ourselves (and not just in terms of water supply) flummoxed by something as routine as the climate?

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Where is the forward planning for just such a situation?

Or is the assumption made that summers here will be perpetually wet and so there will be no need for all those extra showers we end up taking, the extra gallons we're drinking and parched geraniums we're dousing?

And you do wonder what happens if we get an even more prolonged hot spell.

Or indeed (fingers crossed) if such good weather becomes the norm here.

Climate change, we accept, entails something a whole lot more complex than guaranteeing long, hot summer days.

But if local temperatures were to jump a few notches up the thermometer on a more regular basis, it would be comforting to think we could cope with it.

NI Water assure us that: "If everyone simply uses the water they actually need, there will be plenty for everyone."

What though, if there isn't?

The utility providers talks about how if the current hosepipe ban is ignored it could "lead to a total loss of water supply for some households".

Presumably, as in the 70s, they're talking about a water drought that caused supplies to be cut off back then in certain areas, between certain hours.

But that as we know - or at least can imagine - would create very real difficulties for very many people. And also present much worse challenges than the odd wizened lawn or wilting rose bush.

The knock-on effects would be felt not just by householders but by hospitals, farmers and business in general.

Water is vital to life and a good and adequate water supply, you would think, should be a given in a country like our own where, annually, we're not short on rainfall.

I'm not suggesting the current crisis has been badly mishandled - unpredictable weather is always going to present difficulties.

But you do wonder sometimes in this country, if there's not a certain insouciance within officialdom generally towards forward planning.

Of course debating this and demanding assurances from the likes of NI Water should be the job of our politicians.

Sadly, though, the landscape there is currently equally arid.

Stormont's also dried up...

Praying for lost boys, but what about migrants

Twelve young boys and their football coach go missing in caves in Thailand - and the world holds its breath praying for a happy outcome.

This week came the joyous news that the boys had been located. The story made headlines right across the world.

A few days earlier a boat carrying migrants sank off the coast of Libya with great loss of life. Among the dead, three babies.

This story though didn't quite get the same attention as the first quite rightly did. Why not? The migrant crisis has become everyday news.

But real people, real children are dying close to our own continent. We're enraged at Donald Trump's treatment of migrant children. We need to look at the tragedy unfolding closer to home.

Why even Trump deserves a little respect

And speaking of Donald Trump...he's coming here for the Twelfth. Well, not here exactly, and not for the Twelfth as we know it.

But he is arriving in London next week to what looks like a 'warm' reception planned by protesters.

Some insist the visit should have been cancelled. But, no matter how you feel about Trump himself, he is still the President of the United States of America - that country's head of state.

Protest (peaceful protest) is always valid.

But people have to remember too that on this visit Trump represents the entire American nation and one of our oldest allies.

We need to respect that.

Belfast Telegraph


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