Irish Water said that night time restrictions may need to be implemented in parts of Donegal due to a surge in domestic water usage.
There has been a significant increase in household water usage as people adhere to government advice and stay at home in response to the Covid-19 crisis.
But local water supplies are under pressure as households use an additional 24 litres of water per person per day, a 20% increase from February.
As many of the company’s water treatment plants are already working to their maximum capacity, Irish Water is appealing to the public to prioritise handwashing over powerwashing and conserve water now where they can, so that together they can meet the increased demands on the network when restrictions are relaxed for businesses.
Irish Water’s Drinking Water Lead for Donegal Kevin Love said the company may need to go a step further than conservation and leak repairs in parts of Donegal, namely the Pettigo, Letterkenny, Lettermacaward and Lough Mourne water supplies. Night time restrictions are being considered for these areas to allow treated water storage reservoir levels to recover at night.
Mr Love said: “It is really important that everyone follows the HSE guidance on handwashing, however there are some ways to conserve water that will not impact on hygiene. Insights from meter reads show that households are now using 20% more water and we can see a significant change in water usage patterns in towns, housing estates and rural areas where significant numbers of people would usually be out of the house for long periods during the day.
“We are also conscious that we have had an extremely dry spell so we are continually monitoring our water sources for any signs of drought.
“Currently we are closely monitoring the raw water sources for Pettigo, Letterkenny, Lettermacward and Lough Mourne which are depleting due to a lack of rainfall and putting measures in place to minimise any potential interruption to supply due to water shortages.”
Domestic demand represents two thirds of Irish Water customers, and there is concern that there will be extra pressure when businesses reopen in the months to come.
When Government restrictions are lifted, many commercial premises will need to use extra water to clean and flush their plumbing systems and storage tanks or to complete deep cleans, while water usage in homes will continue to remain higher than normal.
He added: “We will be continuing to carry out planned leakage investigation and repair on these water supply zones to minimise water lost through leaking mains and fittings and ensure customers have a consistent supply of water.
“We can all work together to conserve and to ensure emergency leaks are being repaired at this time by our Local Authority and other partners. But in line with government restrictions to protect us all from the spread of Covid-19 other work has been postponed and we expect a return to work soon as the phased introduction of non-critical activity allows. It is essential that we act now to protect our supply and safeguard our water for essential usage.”