In deep water, when the water dries up



Last month we were without water for a day and a half together with a swathe of north Wicklow due to work on a filtration plant. On day one it meant no showers, no loo flushing, dish or other washing. By day two we were buying bottled water and I had belatedly purchased a rain water barrel.  It’s extraordinary how much we depend on something we take for granted.

Last month, too, a month-long hosepipe ban was introduced in West Cork where rainfall is down by 60% where the local supply of H2O is at a historic low. Everywhere else in the country we were asked to be careful about our use of the liquid but are we not overly complacent about our water security given the amount of rainfall here?

It’s hard to accept the idea that we can be short of water yet we do have economic water scarcity, that’s the kind due to inadequate infrastructure and increased demand and our summers are getting drier due to climate change. It can seem, though, that there is water aplenty, the world is a watery place, 75% of it is covered with water, only 3% of that is drinkable and 75% is locked up in ice so that leaves us with 1%.

The amount of rain elsewhere can distort our view too, but climate change is making wet areas  wetter with catastrophic results as well as dry places drier.

In the last month more than 1,000 people in Pakistan lost their lives in flooding, a third of the country is under water and millions are homeless.

Scarily, though, areas in major food producing countries like the US, India, Australia and Spain are experiencing drought driven water shortages while China is facing a water crisis as rivers dry up.

Here we have abundant water resources between rivers, lakes and surface water. But a lot of the water which is saved in dams never comes out of our taps. In 2018, 49% of our water supply was lost through leakage. Now Irish Water have reduced that to 38% and hope to have it down to 25% by 2030 and increase supplies by 40% by 2044.

My attitude to water will never be the same after I experienced a serious drought while living in Cape Town. The Western Cape depends on winter rainfall to fill dams both for public water supply and private dams on farms. After three consecutive dry winters a crisis was declared and everyone in Cape Town was rationed to 100 litres of water a day for everything (in Ireland we use three to four times that a day.) The only way to get extra water was to drive to collect water at springs where fights broke out. I began to believe the gloomy prediction that the next majorwar will be over water.

To this day I grit my teeth when people run water needlessly, I don’t run the tap when I brush my teeth, this takes about 4.5 litres.  A small example:  I run off at least a litre waiting for the tap to run hot for washing up, so I save that water for pot plants. The amount of water for showering depends on the shower head, having a daily five minute shower with an older style showerhead uses about 36,500 litres of water a year!

It all adds up when safeguarding a precious resource. Meantime my new water barrel is fitted to a down pipe to catch all that water that runs off the roof when it rains.

It’s full now, next time there is a dry spell I can water my plants with a clear conscience, if the water gets turned off at least we will have non- drinking water.

It really is a precious resource.

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