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Invest now to prevent further water debacles

From cast iron to (yes) asbestos - just two of the materials used by the industry over the decades - our water supply has come under sustained criticism from the public at large as wholly inadequate.

I have yet to read, or hear, anyone with common sense explaining why the problem occurred in the first place.

It's the 'unprecedented weather conditions' - the phrase MLAs have been schooled to repeat . At last, this is probably close to the truth: it's Jack Frost's fault. The sustained low temperatures of -10C caused the substrate to freeze down to the level of and below earth-embedded pipes.

Simple physics explains the rest - the pipe-water freezes and expands, causing fractures in the pipes and blowing joints. Frozen streams and ground water cannot replenish draw-off from the partly-frozen reservoirs and, naturally, water levels fall and ice up.

What is known as 'frost heave' can also cause structural problems due to ground freezing; but this is rare in Northern Ireland.

To avoid damage by frost penetration of the ground in regions of Canada and the US, they bed their water systems two or three metres below the surface.

It would seem, therefore, that if Northern Ireland has a repeat of similar freezing weather conditions, then the ageing, repaired system and population will suffer the same fate as endured over Christmas and the New Year. It now needs the whole industry to provide long-term solutions and this, without doubt, will involve considerable finance.

Our MLAs will need to warm to the inevitability of introducing water charges and obtaining substantial grant-aid energy-funding from the European Union. I think it's called 'overseas aid'.

M W WOODS

Bangor, Co Down

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