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Inis Meain: Dry summer and their distinctive porous limestone terrain sees two islands in dire straits mid tourist season.

Huge operation to bring water to remote Aran Islands during drought

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Inis Meain: Dry summer and their distinctive porous limestone terrain sees two islands in dire straits mid tourist season.

A huge logistical operation was launched off Ireland's west coast on Wednesday to deliver water to two far-flung island communities.

Up to 240,000 liters of water are being transported daily to the Aran Islands of Inis Meáin and Inis Oirr, after a drought which has left water supplies there at critically low levels.

Unlike much of Ireland's mainland, which has experienced repeated rainfall throughout the summer, the remote Aran Islands, situated off the Connemara coast, have remained relatively dry and their distinctive porous limestone terrain has meant that only small amounts of rainwater have been retained there.

The Irish Times notes that a cargo boat has been converted to carry massive tankers which will be filled from the mains supply at Rossaveal harbor on the Connemara mainland and transported the islands.

The operation will be run round the clock with two crews working to ensure that the water requirements of both islands - which are in the middle of the busy summer tourist season - are met. The vessel will carry 120 cubic meters, or 120,000 liters, on each trip.

Inis Oirr, which is the smallest of the three Aran Islands but with a population of 300, requires a greater volume of water.

The current daily requirement on Inis Meáin, which has a smaller population of just 200 inhabitants, is 80 cubic meters and it is hoped to build up reserves with the excess.

Inis Mór, the most populous and most visited of the three Irish-speaking isles, has been unaffected by the drought.

The massive operation is being overseen by Galway County Council as agent for Irish Water.

Council spokesman Tony Kelly said "It is an expensive project because you're hiring boats and then you're hiring these tankers to be retro-fitted onto the boat. When you get to the islands themselves, you're hiring plant machinery to move the water from the harbor to the reservoirs.

"Not only that, but then you're laying pipe and hiring in pumps, so there's a lot of cost to Irish Water."

Kelly said at least two trips would be made every day for "the foreseeable future" to make sure both islands received sufficient water.

But he stressed it was not yet possible to predict when the two island communities would once again be self-sufficient.

He explained: "You're supplying the life force to the two islands and not only the people themselves, but also to the livestock. Then there is the tourism and local industry there. It's a life-force and badly needed.

"We have the boat hired 24/7 and we have two crews working on it, so if we can maximize it by going to three trips a day we'd be doing very well."

He added: "We had problems with rationing water up to the middle of October last year, so it's hard to say how long it can last."

Last night (Wed), as the first consignment landed at Inis Meáin, four tankers were lined up at the quayside and, after being filled from the boat, were transported by a tractor unit to the island's reservoir.

A different approach is required for Inis Oirr - the cargo vessel will anchor near to the beach where the water will be pumped through a pipe and directly into the reservoir.

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