I had a list of things to accomplish before going to bed. At the top of the list was taking a shower. Getting everything needed, I started the shower and was greeted with a noise similar to a vacuum cleaner. Our shower appeared to be broken. It was the same problem all over the hostel. A few texts and some research solved the mystery. Due to water shortages, restrictions had been put in place on Inis Mór to conserve water.
I had never heard of such a restriction before, with the water being turned off from 11PM to 8AM. Water is a resource that is often taken for granted. Once the initial shock of not having access to water and the logistical challenges that presented had passed, it really sunk in that the island I was staying on only had access to water for 15 hours a day while these restrictions remained in place. I wondered about the logistical challenges that they faced as a result–much larger than my inability to take a shower before bed.
The following morning we headed to the smallest of the Aran Islands. Checking in to our hostel, the manager, Linda, told us that water restrictions were in place from 9PM to 8AM. I asked her how long the restrictions had been in place, and she said they had started at the beginning of May but the length of the restrictions had been increased recently due to increasing shortages. Linda told me that last year their reservoir had several problems with leaking, which had diminished their water supply. This, combined with a fairly dry winter, placed them in their current predicament. She shared that they had to have water delivered from Galway, but that this was a very costly practice and not a viable option to solve the problem.
Inis Oírr, the smallest of the Aran Islands, has a population of approximately 250 people. I had a hard time wrapping my head around them having a water shortage, but a later conversation with another local explained things even more clearly to me. Fionán, a shopkeeper at a craft and wool shop, told me that the reservoir has the capacity to provide water for 400 people. This should be sufficient for the island’s population, however when you take into account that 500-700 people visit daily during tourist season, the reservoir doesn’t have the capacity to keep up. The island also doesn’t experience rain in the same way as the mainland, with showers quickly passing over as they travel inland. These conditions make it difficult to keep the water supply where it needs to be.
Despite the difficulties and inconvenience associated with the water restrictions, the locals remained positive while also being intentional about their water use. At the hostel, signs alerted us all to the water shortage, urging us to be conscious about our water use. I took this to heart, but it also struck me that we should always be conscious of our water use, because it is a necessary resource that isn’t as readily available to everyone.