Dublin’s water supply on ‘knife edge’ says new research

Ireland is in desperate need of water efficiency improvements and implementing metering and efficiency subsidies across Irish households is key to achieving them, according to the latest research from Trinity College Dublin.

Presenting the findings at Resource Ireland today, one of the researchers Jennifer Brady of Trinity College described the survey as “absolutely vital” because there has been such a limited amount of research into behaviour in relation to water usage.

The survey revealed that most respondents were open to changing their water use habits, with 74% of respondents claiming they actively implement water conservation measures, compared with just 40% in 2000.

However, the findings also suggested that householders needed assistance in making those behaviour changes.

“Similar to the successful home energy saving scheme,” Brady said, “householders should be assisted through subsidies to encourage uptake and installation of water efficiency.”

Ireland is unique among EU member states in that the majority of householders are not directly charged for water consumption. Brady cited this as one of the main barriers facing water efficiency but also pointed to the common misconception that in such a wet country, water efficiency was not important.

“There is the perception that it is always raining in Ireland so why on earth would we need to conserve water? Many people fail to realise that the water that falls from the sky does not just go directly to our taps – it must go through a very rigorous and expensive process,” she said.

The survey was carried out in 620 random households in Dublin; a city whose water supply is at 96% capacity and described as on a “knife-edge” by Brady.

Climate change, population growth and urban expansion, which will lead to an intensification of competing demands for water, are all trends that make the debate on water efficiency so relevant now, explained Brady.

38% agreed for the need to charge for water compared with 48% who disagreed. Of those who agreed, 84% believed the best way to do this was to allow a certain amount of water for free and charge for water used above this amount – the measure currently proposed by the Irish Government.

The survey pointed to forgetfulness, inconvenience and busy lifestyles as key reasons for water inefficiency.

Brady said the findings demonstrated that it was “not a case of people deliberately choosing not to conserve water but clearly highlights the need for water saving devices.”

Live from Resource Ireland in Dublin

Conor McGlone

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie