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Louisburgh water supply at breaking point

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COSTA DEL LOUISBURGH Hundreds of people flocked to Old Head Beach near Louisburgh every day during last week's heatwave, putting pressure on the local water supply. Pic: Conor McKeown

Water tankers filling reservoir on daily basis

Anton McNulty

AN influx of visitors to Louisburgh along with record high temperatures has led to the local water supply being on ‘the verge of collapse’.
Tankers filled with water from the Lough Mask water supply have been travelling into Louisburgh on a daily basis over the last week in a bid to keep the reservoir of the local water supply topped up.
The Louisburgh Water Supply plant, which supplies the west Mayo town, has a production capacity of approximately 18 to 22 cubic metres per hour – but current demand far exceeds that, at 32 cubic metres per hour.
In a bid to keep the water flowing locally, the reservoir is being topped up each morning with treated water, and workers in the plant are on 24-hour standby to facilitate the continuation of service. Locals fear that the plant is at breaking point, and that without the water tankers the supply to the town and surrounding areas could be cut off at the height of the tourism season.

Weekend pressure
As weekend temperatures soared close to 30 degrees Celsius, the town and local beaches were thronged with visitors, which resulted in more pressure on the water supply.
Local councillor Christy Hyland told The Mayo News that he visited the town over the weekend and saw firsthand the tankers supplying water. He reassured locals that the water supply would not run dry, but said it the current situation highlighted the need for an extension of the Lough Mask water supply from Westport onto Murrisk and Louisburgh.
“The tankers will keep arriving while the shortage is there and people will not be left without water, but it goes to show how important the Murrisk/Lecanvey/Kilsallagh scheme is. We just had a few days of sunshine, and look at the challenges it brought.
“If the tankers were not there there would be a major shortage of supply. I am delighted Mayo County Council have risen to the challenge and will continue to do so, but it is not a long-term solution,” he said.

Conservation urged
In a statement to The Mayo News, Irish Water confirmed that the Louisburgh supply was one of 40 supplies nationwide where it was ‘implementing measures to ensure taps keep flowing’.
Irish Water is asking the public to continue efforts to conserve water in order to ensure critical supplies can be maintained into the autumn.
Seán Higgins, Irish Water’s Regional Lead, thanked the people of Louisburgh for their support in conserving water to date, and he reminded customers to take some simple steps to reduce their usage.
“By reducing our water use, for example turning off the hose and avoiding power washing, we can all help to avoid further restrictions and ensure there is enough water for homes and businesses, agriculture, fisheries and essential amenities as we go through the rest of the summer and into autumn.
“We will continue to monitor the levels at all our supplies over the coming weeks and take any actions that may be necessary to maintain supplies, including communicating about localised issues or restrictions as they arise.
“The list of locations experiencing drought conditions will also be updated regularly on www.water.ie where people can find out about their local water supply.”

Plant capacity
The Bunowen river is currently the source of the water supply in Louisburgh. The plant which treats the water was built in the mid 1980s. Since then, there has been a number of holiday-home developments in the locality, causing an increase in the local population during the summer. The local secondary school has also been extended and has a substantial student population of around 500.
Local people have expressed concern that the plant is not fit for purpose, pointing out that this is not the first time that water tankers have been brought into Louisburgh to ensure supply.
“People in Louisburgh are concerned about the water supply situation at the moment, and it hammers home the whole reality of water supply in the area,” Cllr Hyland said.
“I am working hard to ensure the [planned Murrisk] scheme will be linked to the pipes close to Kilsallagh and onto Louisburgh, because that is what the people want,” he added.
Meanwhile, Cllr Hyland has urged households in the Murrisk region to subscribe to the new Murrisk Water Supply Scheme if they have not already done so as it was important that work on the scheme starts as soon as possible.
“I would urge people who haven’t subscribed to subscribe so we can get the tenders out for contract and get the work commenced.
I know there are some people happy with their current water supply, but I don’t think we can guarantee that well into the future with climate change. We don’t know how well these [local] wells will perform in years to come.”