By Andrew Bushe
Dublin — Dubliners are facing at least a month of severe water shortages with supplies being cut off to some areas on a regular basis as engineers struggle to upgrade a creaking supply system that is failing to keep up with demand.
Despite the wet winter, underground pipes that leak like sieves, the huge increase in tourist demand from hotels, a growth in industry and a rising population have meant the supply system is failing to satisfy the area’s thirst for water.
Tom Leahy, deputy city engineer, said that all water production and treatment plants are operating at maximum capacity to provide 100 million gallons daily, but this is not enough to meet the burgeoning demand.
In Dublin’s 100-year old piping system is a disaster, about 35 million gallons of water a day just vanishes into the ground through leaks between treatment plants and homes and businesses.
A _32 million water conservation project aims to halve the leakage
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between now and April 2000.
“Since 1995, as a consequence of unprecedented growth, the region has experienced a major increase in demand,” he said.
Leahy said that the gas company had undertaken a huge underground pipe replacement program to deal with leaks but in the past the Dublin Corporation hasn’t had the cash to do the same with its water pipes.
Despite all the rain, Leahy said the rain-water and river-water was
no good unless it was purified.
“The bottle-neck is at our production plants at present,” he said.
He said there was no problem with the “raw” water reservoirs but the treated reservoirs were “greatly depleted” and he appealed for everyone in the city to try and cut their consumption by 10 percent.
“People can help by not letting taps run and only running washing
machines and other appliances on full loads. Automatic flush systems
should be turned off at night and any leaking taps repaired.”
He said the biggest treated reservoir in Stillorgan was 80 percent
full at the start of January. It dropped to 40 percent within three
weeks when industrial usage shot up after the Christmas holidays and frost fractured more of the old water mains and caused new leaks.
Dublin Corporation plans to carry out work on the Leixlip reservoir to increase water production by 10 percent to provide a further 10 million gallons. Large-scale civil engineering works will be carried out in all the seven local authorities in the region over the next six months.
Leahy said this will give a window of opportunity of at least 18
months to undertake repairs and replacement of pipes.