Subscribe Now

Water, water everywhere

Published 06/04/2013

AS a nation we Irish tend to take water for granted until we don't have it anymore. My family gets our water from a well. We have had to install a UV filter to kill off nasty bugs after farmyard slurry got into our supply twice. A year ago we thought the well had run dry - it turned out to be a minor technical hitch with the pump. After the experience of having to fill cisterns and kettles from bottles and borrow from neighbours we now cherish our water.

Across the world almost 900 million people lack reliable access to clean water that is free from disease and pollution and 4,500 children needlessly die every day from waterborne illnesses.

At least in Dublin, where households and businesses have been experiencing water rationing all week, there is hope at the end of the tunnel.

The capital's problems are being blamed on an algae outbreak at a treatment plant coupled with low water levels, largely because the cold weather has caused network leaks.

People in Northern Ireland will empathise with Dubliners after up to 40,000 homes and businesses in 74 towns were left without water after a thaw in icy conditions caused pipes to burst in December 2010.

The crisis made headlines across the world amid concerns that water shortages and supplies contaminated with sewage could cause a disease outbreak, particularly in Belfast.

It seems baffling therefore that so many of us should still fail to respect and cherish our water.

Last May NI Water revealed that 'mindless' vandalism to dozens of fire hydrants in Belfast was causing around three quarters of a million litres of water being wasted every single day - the equivalent of 2,000 homes losing their supply daily. And of course the taxpayer footed the bill for fixing the problem.

The UUP's Danny Kinahan recently complained that he believed government departments were not taking the threat of pollution seriously especially for the Six Mile Water River and that more resources need to be devoted to the management of the north's rivers.

He suggested that 'local enthusiasts' were an 'under-used resource' when it came to monitoring and ensuring waterways were properly protected.

A fortnight ago, a Co Kerry farmer contacted the Republic's Inland Fisheries after a slurry pit wall collapsed on his farm resulting in slurry entering the Shannon Estuary at Ballylongford Bay.

The farmer had carried out emergency measures on site, attempting to contain the slurry and also trying to minimise the impact to fish and wildlife downstream, however, officials confirmed that 150 trout had been killed.

That landowner must be praised for acting promptly but the state's Environmental

Protection Agency has found that the use of fertilisers and overgrazing remain factors in river pollution, and ultimately affect drinking water quality.

With some weather buffs predicting an unusually hot summer after the harsh spring let's hope every single one of us starts appreciating our water a little more - we never know when it might not be on tap.