Recent fires burning across the Mournes have caused severe damage to the natural environment of the area. Wildfires not only pose a risk to human life, wildlife, property and the environment, but also to our drinking water supply.
Rebecca Allen, Catchment Liaison Officer at NI Water explains why these nature landscapes must be protected: “While we are working hard to deal with the problem of wildfires, we can assure customers, that tap water quality is unaffected and is of a very high quality.
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.
“However, 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 wildfires, 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.
*The public are reminded that deliberate setting of wildfires is a criminal offence and if you see anyone setting a fire you should call the PSNI immediately.
If you see a fire:
- Report it immediately to NI Fire & Rescue Service;
- Do not attempt to tackle fires that cannot be put out with a bucket of water;
- Leave the area as soon as possible;
- If you see someone setting fires, report it to the PSNI.
If you are in the countryside:
- Leave no trace; take your rubbish with you.
- Never fly-tip waste material;
- Extinguish cigarettes and other flammable materials properly;
- Never throw cigarette ends out of car windows;
- Avoid using open fires;
- Be considerate in parking vehicles so as not to impede access by emergency vehicles.”