As the first shipment of emergency water supplies to Inis Meaín began yesterday a Galway West TD has called on the Government to quash water charges for islanders who have been subject to water shortages and rationing throughout the summer.
Describing the crisis on Inish Meáin and Inis Óirr as “completely unacceptable”, Fianna Fáil TD Éamon Ó Cuív called on the new Minister for Rural Development Ann Phelan and Minister for the Gaeltacht Joe McHugh to develop a co-ordinated policy which not only deals with the water shortages but also outlines a comprehensive charging plan for islanders.
Deputy Ó Cuív made the comments as an emergency operation, led by the Galway County Council and Irish Water, got under way yesterday afternoon in an attempt to replenish the water reserves on Inis Meaín. While the mainland has been enjoying the warm weather interrupted by some rainfall, there has been very little rainfall on the Aran Islands and the limestone terrain makes it difficult for rainfall to be retained. As a consequence, water levels on Inis Meaín, and the neighbouring island of Inis Óirr, have been reaching critically low levels during June and July and daily restrictions have been in place in an attempt to conserve supplies. There have been no water supply issues on Inis Mór.
A statement received yesterday from Irish Water said that it along with Galway County Council has finalised plans to deliver water supplies to Inis Meáin. The first delivery of 120 cubic metres of water (120,000 litres ) began yesterday and at least two runs a day will continue as neccessary until the water shortage has been alleviated. The Lasta Mara shipping company will transport the supplies from the port of Rossaveal.
The Irish Water statement also confirmed that the current water restrictions to the supply of water on Inis Óirr would remain in place until further notice. There are sufficient resources in the reservoir at this time, however, plans are being made to replenish the water reserves on the island over the coming weeks.
Regarding the effect on the islanders and the inadequate Government response, Deputy Ó Cuív said: “These shortages have been during the peak tourist season. With all the Aran Islands packed with visitors, restaurants and businesses are struggling to cope with basic water demands, and the increased volumes are putting a huge pressure on resources.