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Farmers call for public support as drought fears increase in Northern Ireland

Enjoying the weather in Belfast as heatwave continues Picture Mal McCann.
Áine Quinn

FARMERS have called on the public to support the hosepipe ban in Northern Ireland amid fears of a drought.

With the heatwave in set to continue this week amid sweltering temperatures, water chiefs are also worried after demand shot up by nearly a third.

The Ulster Farmers Union (UFU) said farms are facing challenges in terms of water availability for livestock and crops.

UFU president Ivor Ferguson said: “We are keeping a close eye on the situation. We have called on the public to support the hosepipe ban to ensure that there is enough water going forward. Animal welfare and survival of crops are key concerns at the moment.

“One thing farmers know, it's that you can't control the weather. Regardless if it is hot and dry or cold and wet, farmers are resilient and resourceful and will find a way to work through it."

And NI Water CEO Sara Venning added: "Farmers need more water at this time to ensure they can feed their livestock.

"We are asking people to heed the hosepipe ban and stop non-essential water use to ensure the sectors that need more will have it. In recent days our treatment works have been operating at near maximum levels with a 30 per cent increase in demand."

The hosepipe ban - the first time in 23 years - applies to domesticc households and was brought in last Friday.

Although temperatures are not expected to reach last week's high of 30.5C, the average temperature this week is expected to be around 25C.

A similar ban on use of hosepipes in the Republic came into effect yesterday in the greater Dublin area.

Irish Water warned that further water restrictions across the state will be announced in the coming week.

The ban is set to stay in place until July 31, however it may be extended.

Northern Ireland's hosepipe ban has prompted an unexpected increase in watering can sales.

Although people are banned from hosing flowers in the ongoing heatwave, and face fines of up to £1,000 if caught, the use of watering cans is still allowed.

Robin Mercer, owner of the Hillmount Garden Centre on the outskirts of Belfast, was forced to order extra cans after the weekend's sales.

He said: "We probably sold more watering cans this weekend than we have in the last two months.

"As soon as the hosepipe ban was announced, everybody was up getting their watering cans.”

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