Fires on the Mournes will affect drinking water supplies, claims NI Water

Three fires burning across the Mourne Mountain range in Northern Ireland are causing severe damage to the natural environment of the area, claims NI Water.

The warning comes as firefighters continue to tackle significant blazes on separate mountains and the public is urged to stay away.

Wildfires not only pose a risk to human life, wildlife, property and the environment, but also to drinking water supply.

Rebecca Allen, Catchment Liaison Officer at NI Water explains why these nature landscapes must be protected:

“A water catchment is where water is collected by the natural landscape into rivers, lakes and streams.  NI Water control 24 drinking water catchments supplying water to all of Northern Ireland. Wildfires within these catchments not only pose a terrible risk to all life but can remove the primary layer of vegetation, leaving the burned bare soil exposed to erosion which then makes its way into the reservoirs, from where water is abstracted for treatment to be drinking water.

“The great erosion caused by wildfire increases carbon and other polluting chemicals significantly in raw (untreated) water, with sediment accumulates in streams, lakes and reservoirs.  This makes raw water especially difficult and more expensive to treat at our facilities to the stringent standards required by the Drinking Water Regulations.   A significant amount of other work by our water supply colleagues also has to be undertaken at the treatment works to ensure excellent quality drinking water during these times. Extra water samples have to be collected and analysed, streams from burned areas need isolated, and other remedial measures must be taken like blocking streams to protect reservoirs.”

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