NI Water would like to warn the public that in this warm and dry weather, there is a greater risk of wildfires developing in the countryside due to the burning of vegetation or waste and littering and dumping of waste materials.
Rebecca Allen, Catchment Liaison Officer at NI Water comments: “Wildfires not only pose a risk to human life, wildlife, property and the environment, but also to our drinking water supply. Many areas which might be prone to wildfires like the Mourne Mountains, and areas which are unfortunately subject to fly-tipping are also in our drinking water catchments.
“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. 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.
“However, wildfires within these catchments not only pose a terrible risk to all life but removes the primary layer of vegetation, leaving the burned bare soil exposed to erosion which then makes its way into the reservoirs which supply the water to be treated to become our drinking water.
“The great erosion caused by wildfire increases carbon and other polluting chemicals significantly in raw water in the area, where sediment is accumulated in streams, lakes and reservoirs. This makes it 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, with extra water samples having to be collected and analysed, streams from burned areas needing isolated from our raw water intake, and other remedial measures like blocking streams to protect our 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:
* If you see a fire in the countryside, report it immediately to the 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:
* 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.