Ireland is surely one of the greenest countries in the world, but its management of freshwater in recent times has been anything but green.
Some 41 percent of the nation’s drinking water leaks out of delivery pipes – twice the UK average. That’s a costly loss given the expense of treating and pumping that water to the nation’s 4.6 million people.
Household water demand per person is estimated to average 102 gallons (386 liters) per day, double or triple that in other European countries and about the same as in the United States, where national usage is driven up by irrigation of large suburban lawns, especially in the drier west.
And with Dublin now running short of water, most of the talk about filling the gap focuses on capturing more supply from the Shannon River or other sources. There’s been relatively little mention of conservation or curbing demand.
Much of this excess and waste traces back to a simple and perhaps startling fact: In Ireland, households do not pay for water. It is free, no matter how much is used. And no one knows how much any particular household uses, because Ireland – alone among European countries – does not meter water usage.
But change is afoot in the Emerald Isle.