New project aims to boost Irish network of water refilling stations

Published by Laura Matjusaityte on

July 4th, 2018

Water is the source of life and with the current weather conditions in Ireland, it is vital to stay hydrated.

In order to so, an adult has to consume up to eight glasses of water daily. However, as innocent as water consumption may seem, there is a dark side to it when drinking from plastic bottles.

It takes double the volume of water contained in the bottle to produce just one plastic bottle. This is a lot of water when you consider that over 70 million plastic bottles are sold in Ireland every year.

Data from the Waste Management Offices shows that Ireland is currently recycling only 35 per cent of its plastic waste, with the rest going to landfill, for incineration or thrown away carelessly on our streets and into our hedgerows, waterways, and seas.

Over 80 per cent of coastal sites surveyed during CoastWatch’s most recent All-Ireland Coastwatch Survey were found to be littered with plastic.

The survey results revealed that the plastic bottles, which can take over 500 years to decompose, are the most commonly found macro litter item in Ireland. The team found an average of 18 plastic bottles for every 500 metres of the coastline surveyed.

Plastic Bottles Photo: Daniel Orth

Public access to water

One obvious solution to the issue is to encourage people to use public water fountains. Public locations such as colleges and sports venues should have working water taps where anyone from the public can refill their water bottles.

It can be hard to find water taps suitable for public use, however, even in big cities such as Dublin, with one voluntary project, Refill Ireland, working to help people find spots to fill their reusable bottles.

The group has a map on its website of all public taps around Ireland and is recruiting local business to participate. There are currently 370 free tap water stations on the map, most of which are private businesses.

Mouse Internet Cafe in Cork is one such business and aims to be as sustainable as possible, using compostable cups and offering discounts to customers who bring their own cups.

Café owner Theresa Ryder told The Green News that they are new to the initiative but have noticed an increase in customers refilling their bottles after advertising the scheme in the shop and on social media.

“We have only recently joined the Refill Ireland initiative and numbers taking advantage of the service are slowly increasing,” Ms Ryder added.

Mouse Internet Cafe Photo: Mouse Cork

Water Quality in Ireland

According to the lead project coordinator, Barry O’Connor, it is important to remember that all Irish water is potable and that there is no “grey water” in our system.

Ireland has one tap water system which means that all tap water in Ireland is good for drinking “whether is your home kitchen sink or your local golfing exterior tap”, Mr O’Connor said.

The latest Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) report on drinking water quality indicates that Ireland has high-quality water supplies and is generally suitable for public use.

The quality level of drinking water in Ireland is generally high and the microbiological and chemical standards show that most of the water supplies in the country is safe to use.

Problems remain, however, in some parts of the country due to contamination by lead, trihalomethanes and pesticides, with 42 boil notices in place in 17 counties last year.

During 2017, Irish Water notified the EPA of 878 drinking water quality failures, most of which were due to an increase in the number of pesticide failures.

glass drinking water

Photo: ColiN00B/Pixabay

Public awareness is key

Mr O’Connor told The Green News that the main problem in people accessing water from public taps is advertising as most people are not aware of free water refilling stations.

He said that if members of public knew more about this, they would have “no fear of refusal” and more likely would ask for water refilling “for free and without quibble”.

Mr O’Connor said if everyone in Ireland would refill their water bottles at least once instead of buying a new one every time they want a drink of water, millions of plastic bottles would be prevented from going to the landfill.

While the project continues to recruit more businesses to the cause, not everyone is playing ball during the current heatwave, with Irish Rail set to give out 50,000 plastic water bottles to commuters.

While it may appear a thoughtful gesture, the price will likely be passed on to our streets, countryside, rivers, lakes and seas. Irish Rail did not reply to requests from The Green News for comment.

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Laura Matjusaityte

Laura is a first-year journalism student at DIT. She has an interest in the environment, veganism and literature.