Northern Ireland

More water-saving action 'could be needed'

Spelga Dam
Image caption Spelga Reservoir in County Down is only about half full after the dry weather spell

Further restrictions on water use in Northern Ireland could be put in place if dry weather continues, according to the region's water supply company.

Sara Venning, the head of NI Water, said the reservoirs were 70% full.

But without rain in the near future extra measures on top of the existing hosepipe ban - imposed two weeks ago - might have to be considered, she added.

Image caption The bridge at Spelga that has been revealed by the heatwave crossed the source of the River Bann

A close eye is being kept on Spelga Reservoir near Hilltown in County Down.

It helps to service 100,000 customers in places in the county like Newry, Kilkeel and Banbridge.

It is only half full, with its level dropping to the point that an old road that usually sits well below the waterline has been exposed.

Image caption The old road at Spelga Reservoir has not been used since the dam was built in the mid-1950s

Thousands of people have been visiting the reservoir to see it at its lowest level in recent years.

But Spelga Reservoir has been lower than its current level - in 1995 a prolonged summer drought left it at 30% of its capacity.

Ms Venning said that NI Water expected reservoir levels to drop in summer.

Image caption Spelga Reservoir has been much lower than at present, dipping to 30% of its capacity 23 years ago

But she said the last two weeks had been without significant rainfall, coming on top of an already dry June.

Engineers are reducing the demand on Spelga and drawing on other sources to balance supply to that part of the network.

Ms Venning said she hoped that and the reduction in demand that has resulted from the hosepipe ban would be sufficient to address the supply issues.

Image caption People have been visiting Spelga to see an old road that was exposed as the water level receded

In the Republic of Ireland night-time supply interruptions have been introduced to manage demand.

Asked whether such restrictions might be necessary at Spelga, Ms Venning said she hoped not, before adding: "It isn't something though that I would rule out."

The company has also defended itself after it emerged that recent hosepipe ban advertisements did not appear to accurately reflect the law used to impose it.

Image caption The hosepipe ban was "within the letter and spirit of the law", says NI Water boss Sarah Venning

It was suggested that the company had listed activities banned under Great Britain regulations but not Northern Ireland ones.

The ban in Northern Ireland only applies to the use of hosepipes to water gardens, road vehicles or vehicles towed by a road vehicle.

Ms Venning said she believed the ban was "within the letter and spirit of the law here in Northern Ireland".

"The ban was brought in to effect behaviour change and we absolutely have seen that behaviour change and we don't believe we overstepped the mark," she said.

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