The levels of water in wells serving almost 30,000 people in Portlaoise are critically low according to Irish Water.
The concern over the lack of water drove the water management company to issue a statement to the public on Thursday appealing for help in conserving water in the coming weeks.
Irish Water engineer John Gavin told the Leinster Express why Portlaoise is experiencing a historic low in water supply levels.
“The wells are quite deep, it might rain today but it takes a long time to go deep down where wells are through the layers of rock. Met Eireann reported a moisture deficit of 80 percent in the ground during the summer drought and that has to be replaced before water goes down deeper. What is more concerning is the rain we are getting isn't a huge amount and any rain that does fall is still just covering the deficit.
“From May to now there has been 50 percent of the rain that would normally fall. This is very low and has not been experienced before. The amount of water available has greatly diminished.
“There hasn’t been a huge amount of rainfall restoring soil moisture in the last couple of months,” he said.
The wells are not expected to fill up anytime soon as it can take a long time for water moisture to be restored in the ground and then for water to soak down through the many layers of rock and into the wells deep below the ground. This water would usually be pumped to be treated and then pumped to homes and businesses but it has not been replenished since the drought in summer.
The amount of water lost through leaks in Portlaoise is around 30 percent which is lower than it has been in the past.
Irish Water found the water levels so concerning that it issued an appeal to people on the Portlaoise Water Supply Scheme to conserve water in order to reduce the demand on the increasingly lowering supply of water for the area.
While it has not made a definite decision yet, nighttime cuts to the water supply are highly likely in the coming weeks and throughout winter. Reduction in demand, along with prolonged, heavy rainfall, are necessary to avoid ongoing restrictions that may be necessary into next Spring
Irish Water has said it can prioritise the cuts for services like hospitals, schools, businesses or the prisons. Large housing estates are generally first to be cut at nighttime. Nighttime cuts are usually from 10pm to 6am.
John O’Donoghue is the Irish Water Operations Manager for the East and Midlands.
"Under normal weather conditions, water levels would drop over the summer but then start to replenish in September and October. This has not been the case this year. Continued low rainfall levels mean the water supply is at an historic low. Even if there was a prolonged spell of heavy rain, it would take a number of months for that rain to percolate through soils and bedrock to recharge the aquifers and become available for abstraction," he said.
Read the statement from Irish Water below:
"Irish Water is appealing to customers on the Portlaoise Water Supply Scheme to conserve water. The Utility is advising that water restrictions may be necessary in the coming weeks, as water levels continue to drop in the aquifers that supply water to the Scheme.
"Homes and businesses on the public water supply in Portlaoise and surrounding areas are supplied by groundwater that comes from a number of local aquifer sources. The aquifers are underground lakes from which water is extracted via well fields and then piped to the water treatment plant at Kilminchy before being delivered to customers.
"After the exceptionally dry summer, the aquifers that feed the Scheme currently do not have sufficient storage to sustain a full water supply to the population dependent on it over the coming months. Approximately 28,000 customers depend on the Portlaoise Water Supply Scheme for their residential and business needs."
"It is looking more and more likely that restrictions may be unavoidable and people need to be aware of what may be coming down the line. We are appealing to customers to conserve water wherever possible and report any leaks they see, immediately to Irish Water on 1850 278 278.’’
"Irish Water continues to carry out a range of works in order to avoid the implementation of restrictions. These include:
Finding and fixing leaks on the Portlaoise Water Supply Scheme.
Replacement of aging water mains in order to combat the leakage
Irish Water is also currently at design stage of a project to put in additional wells into production at the Coolbanagher Wellfield including the laying of 1.4 kms of pipeline to connect the wells to the existing network. It is planned to award a contract for this work before the end of this year with works due to be completed in early 2019."
For tips on how to conserve water go to water.ie.