down to the last drop

It’s no big secret that Irish weather is not for the faint of heart. But it’s been particularly hard to deal with the past few weeks, with constant clouds, rain, snow, sleet, hail, and the coldest, most biting wind ever. However, the past few days has brought a dry spell (and mostly sunny skies), which would normally be great news. Except, for reasons I am still trying sort out, the dry spell has coincided with water rationing.

As an American who lived in the Midwest and East Coast, water rationing is something of a mystery to me. I’ve experienced it in other countries, but the eastern part of the US is a relatively wet climate, and even when there is drought, there is still water. Specifically, the water that is treated for drinking and other household usage tends to sit in reservoirs that are designed to a capacity far greater than the population they serve.  In the western part of the US, of course, water rationing is not uncommon, but it is much drier, and the lack of groundwater/rainwater causes shortages.

Ireland, however, is a wet rainy island, with abundant groundwater. In fact, as far as I can tell, the reservoirs that hold water are full. However, the reservoir that holds potable water for Dublin city is low (and another one has some sort of contamination). So, the city has decided to reduce the water pressure to preserve water for 12 hours every night. For most people, this results in almost no cold water (there is still hot water, as that comes into the boiler, so presumably, until that runs out, one is ok) from about 7 pm to 7 am. I can only assume the bottled water companies are experiencing a windfall right now.

Now, as I snicker over the idea of a rainy island experiencing a water shortage, I have to admit this is the second time I’ve been here for one. The reasons given include unusually cold weather lasting longer than expected, which causes leakages in the reservoirs and pipes. I think the contamination in the second reservoir might also be an important factor this time around. And apparently, water usage goes up when the weather is colder. The city has issued some water-saving measures including reducing shower time, turning off the tap when brushing teeth, and only running dishwasher/washing machine when full. This is clearly a system built for its climate – I could only imagine the havoc wreaked if people were washing cars or watering lawns. It’s not that cold here though, and certainly there are reservoirs and systems around the world that will hold up under much colder temperature. I can only assume there is no political will here to upgrade the system, which seems about par for the course.

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