Northern Ireland Water (NI Water) has lifted the country-wide hosepipe ban, which has been in force since 29 June.
The company lifted the ban at midday yesterday (19 July) after demand returned to “near normal levels”. Its chief executive has warned the ban could be reintroduced if demand increases again.
Sara Venning, CEO of NI Water, said: “Thanks to the fantastic response from the public to our appeals to conserve water we have seen demand for water decrease from three quarters of a billion litres per day – some 30 per cent above average – to near normal levels.
“This means our water treatment works, which were struggling to meet this exceptional demand, with large scale water supply interruptions imminent, are now coping comfortably with demand.”
She added: “We would stress, however, that a continued focus on water conservation is essential. Ideally, we would like to see demand reduced still further or at least maintained at its present level to avoid the prospect of the ban having to be reintroduced. This is achievable if we continue to use water wisely.
“Many customers have adopted new habits and ways to conserve water in everyday life and we hope they will continue with these changes in their daily lives.”
NI Water said the levels of raw water storage in its impounding reservoirs are being “closely monitored” as recent rainfall has not been “sufficient” to have a positive impact in many of the basins.
Venning said: “These levels have not yet reached the point which would trigger the need for the imposition of restrictions, including a hosepipe ban and do not represent a threat to water supplies in the short term. A continued period without rain will see reservoir levels fall further and may result in the need for additional restrictions.
“Similar to other water companies, NI Water is already taking precautionary measures to protect those reservoirs which are most at risk. These measures include reducing demand on them by reducing the area they supply and bringing in water from other, more plentiful water sources.
“As always, the continuous provision of clean, safe drinking water to all our customers remains our primary objective. By working together to reduce demand, we will preserve the water in our impounding reservoirs and mitigate the prospect of renewed restrictions having to be imposed until our reservoirs are recharged by the return of normal rainfall levels.”
NI Water implemented the hosepipe ban in response to an “exceptionally long and unprecedented spell of hot weather”.
The company said it took the measure to protect water supply and encourage customers to “conserve water and not waste it”.
Last week, the company refuted claims it had been in breach of legislation by giving notice of its intention to introduce the hosepipe ban.
It said: “As the sole undertaker for the supply of drinking water to the whole of Northern Ireland, in light of the recent situation where we faced exceptional levels of demand, we believe that we have taken all reasonable steps within the legal framework within which we operate to maintain the drinking water supply to the people of NI.
“Had we not imposed the ban as a proactive precautionary measure there was potential for significant numbers of customers to be adversely affected.”