Restrictions may be necessary on the Mullingar Regional Water Supply Scheme in the coming weeks and up to 50,000 customers would be affected.
A spokesperson for Irish Water says it is intensifying its First Fix Free Scheme to help tackle domestic leakage in Mullingar and surrounding areas as water levels in Lough Owel continue to drop.
After the exceptionally dry summer, Lough Owel currently does not have sufficient storage to sustain a full water supply to the population dependent on it, over the coming months. The lough is spring fed lake and any rain that falls today will take a number of months to percolate through soils and bedrock before it gets to the lake.
Even though there may be heavy rain on any given day, only the rain that falls on the lake, which is minimal, will have an immediate effect.
To the end of August, County Westmeath had received just 52% of expected rainfall for the year; this figure would have needed to be 67% to ensure adequate replenishment of the Lough.
Irish Water continues to monitor the situation at Lough Owel and will re-assess the need for night-time restrictions.
A decision will be made on the week commencing September 24. (Continues below photo.)
Lough Owel - photographed by Philip Ginnell this week.
Such is the critical nature of the situation in Mullingar and surrounding areas, Irish Water will be carrying out an intensified campaign to promote their First Fix Free Scheme in the area.
Letters will be sent to householders where a recent water meter reading indicates that there may be leaks at their properties.
As part of the First Fix Free Scheme, Irish Water will offer these householders a free leak investigation.
The main purpose of this investigation is to determine the location of the leak.
If the leak is located on the supply pipe external to the house (i.e. it is not within or underneath the house), Irish Water will be able repair it free of charge under the scheme.
There is more information available on the Scheme at https://www.water.ie/for-home/first-fix/.
Irish Water is also urging customers to make contact and report leaks on their properties.
Irish Water has also intensified work to find and fix leaks on the public network and we have found and fixed 208 leaks on the Mullingar Regional Water Supply Scheme so far this year.
Irish Water have replaced ageing water mains in order to combat the leakage problem at the following locations:
• Knockdrin – 3.5km of mains replaced north of the Mullingar bypass/N4
• Tyrrellspass – 800m of mains rehabilitation
• Tore Road, Tyrrellspass – 800m of mains rehabilitation
• Kilbeggan village – full rehabilitation and lead mains replaced
• Rathconnell – 1200m of mains rehabilitation due to be commissioned this week.
• Replacement of watermains at Dublin Road, Kilbeggan, Dublin Road, Moate and Guildford, Tyrrellspass.
Irish Water will shortly be commencing the rehabilitation of 4.5km of water main in the Ballinagore area and the replacement of old back yard services in Mullingar in October.
John O’Donoghue, Irish Water head of Operations for the East and Midlands Region, said: “It is important that people are aware that they may face a restricted water supply over the coming weeks.
“Irish Water are working to try to avoid having to introduce restrictions but it is looking likely that restrictions may be unavoidable in order to avoid widespread outages.
“The rainfall in August has simply not been sufficient after a dry winter combined with the exceptionally dry period over the summer.
“We would need a persistent and ongoing spell of heavy rain in order to get the levels in Lough Owel back to where they would normally be for this time of the year.
“That’s why Irish Water are intensively targeting Westmeath for our First Fix Free Scheme. It is essential that anyone who receives a First Fix Free letter contacts us as a matter of urgency so we can initiate an investigation.
“In conjunction with this, we have a programme of concentrated works to fix leaks on the public side of the network, all of which will help alleviate the pressure on Lough Owel.
“I wish to thank consumers for their efforts to conserve water and ask them to continue to do so wherever possible and report any leaks they see to Irish Water on 1850 278 278.
“The public response to the Water Conservation Order have greatly aided Irish Water efforts to reduce demand in Mullingar, Rathowen, Ballynacargy, Ballymore, Moate, Kilbeggan Castletown Geoghegan, Tyrrellspass, Rochfortbridge, Kinnegad, Killucan and Taghmon.
“Every effort make to conserve water has a positive impact on the wider community.”
There are tips for water conservation on the Irish Water website, https://www.water.ie/conservation/.
The Water Conservation Order remains in place in County Westmeath until the end of September.
Irish Water will continue to provide updates on Lough Owel and any potential restrictions.