herald

Sunday 18 November 2018

Water usage drops but utility will decide tomorrow on fines

Kate Gannon of Irish Water
Kate Gannon of Irish Water

Irish Water will decide tomorrow if it will begin imposing fines for wasting water.

The utility said while demand had dropped over the weekend, it needed to examine two days' records of "normal" usage before deciding if it should appoint "authorised officers" to impose the ban and issue on-the-spot fines of €125.

The company can produce 610 million litres a day, and 575 million litres were used on Sunday. It also said it was preparing to issue hosepipe bans in other parts of the country at risk of losing supply, but said a final decision should not be taken until the end of the week.

Restrictions affecting thousands of customers are in place across 39 supplies, while more than 130 are at risk.

Corporate affairs manager Kate Gannon said while demand was "moving in the right direction", it would prefer to encourage the public to conserve water rather than impose fines.

"Weeks" of sustained rainfall are needed to replenish water sources, including rivers, lakes and aquifers, before restrictions could be lifted nationally.

Hounding

On-the-spot fines can be imposed on people using a hosepipe to water their garden, wash their car or fill ponds.

The utility was in discussions with counterparts in Northern Ireland, where a hosepipe ban is also in place, and across the UK seeking advice on best practice.

"We're not in the business of hounding down members of the general public," she said.

"It's not about enforcement. It's not about looking over the fence at your neighbour.

"It's not about the fine. It's about pushing people's sense of doing it for their neighbour and their community."

In the UK, demand fell by 5pc to 10pc during hosepipe bans.

She also said that people were calling seeking advice, and that the company was also contacting households known to use large quantities of water, offering to repair a leak for free.

Some 16 of the firm's 20 biggest customers had also committed to reducing usage.

If the utility began enforcing the ban, it would call on people's homes and ask them to reduce usage. Where large quantities were used on an ongoing basis, fines could be imposed.

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