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Water, water everywhere? Maybe not

By Sean Ryan

I was enjoying a pint of Guinness in The Martello Bar last week, listening to ocean waves stroke the Irish coast and talking to the bartender about the island’s water shortage.

The bartender said the government would shut off the building’s water the following morning because of the shortage. The shutoffs happened all over Ireland this month after a deep freeze resulted in busted water pipes and water shortages across the island. Signs saying “Conserve Water” were lit up across Dublin and people waited in long cues to fill jugs with water delivered by truck. The government will spend $424.5 million fixing burst pipes to solve the problem.

The Martello bar and hotel building, like most in Ireland, had its own water storage tank. The hotel would probably make it through one day of drought before the tank empties and the taps run dry because mid-January is a slow time of year in Bray, the bartender said.

He explained the Irish left their water running during the cold weather to stop their pipes from bursting. The constantly running taps, combined with the burst pipes, drained the island’s inland water reservoirs.

(Photo courtesy of

Council staff in Cork city distribute water to the public on Jan. 12.(Photo courtesy of

The Irish, like residents of any developed nation, took it for granted that their infrastructure will provide as much water as they could ever want. The shortages in Ireland, along with water quantity and quality problems in some Wisconsin communities, prove this is wishful thinking.

The reality is our public drinking-water systems require constant improvement and maintenance and our fresh water resources should never be taken for granted.

Sean Ryan, a staff writer at The Daily Reporter, is glad to be back in Milwaukee, mainly because it sits on the largest freshwater lake wholly contained in the U.S.

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