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Irish Water plans to reduce leaks to 20 per cent … by the year 2040

Brendan Howlin said the €600 million a year needed in investment is likely to grow in the future.

Image: Shutterstock/BEEE

Updated at 12.52pm

IRISH WATER HAS set a target of 2021 to eliminate long-term boil water notices across the country.

The company has published its 25 year plan for fixing the country’s creaking water infrastructure and improving water quality.

The full document can be viewed online here. A public consultation on the plan is also getting under way – lasting until mid April.

Boil water notices of longer than 200 days will be eliminated by the end of 2021, according to the utility.

It’s planned a significant effort will also be made to address lead levels.

water1 Source: Irish Water

Currently, there are more than 23,000 people on boil water notices across the country, and up to 900,000 people are being served by 126 water treatment plants classified by the EPA as being ‘at risk’.

Huge numbers of householders also regularly face supply interruptions and have to endure poor quality water.

The plan is aimed at developing a service “that meets our short term needs and is still fit for purpose in 25 years” according to Irish Water

€600m per year

The utility has said that around €600 million a year will need to be invested in water infrastructure.

Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin said this figure will probably end up “growing beyond that into the future”.

Irish budget 2015 Brendan Howlin Source: PA Wire/Press Association Images

He said water services in this country have been chronically underfunded because money was diverted to more “visible-need infrastructure” such as hospitals and schools.

There’s never been, for generations, a true picture of the scale of real need for water and sewage investment. From a spending perspective, in truth, demand for investment in pipes under the ground was always going to be in competition with investment in schools or in hospitals or in really visible-need infrastructure. It was never going to take priority.

Howlin added that Irish Water must be kept off-balance so it can borrow funds from international markets.

He said the company’s income is likely to increase in the future “not necessarily by increase of the charges but by volume pressure” as businesses expand and the overall population grows.

Boil notices

Regarding boil notices “the 2021 target sets out where we expect to be with water services at that time,” head of assets with the semi-state Jerry Grant said on Morning Ireland.

“It doesn’t mean we will wait until then to deliver particular objectives.

“For example, in Roscommon, three of the four areas that are affected will be freed up this year. It will take until the end of 2016 to get north-east Roscommon off the boil water notice because we have a much bigger scheme to deliver there and we’re at tender stage at the moment.

“We have other boil water notices around the country — but indeed, we have other areas that could fall into boil water notices very easily because we know they’re at risk. They’re also very high priorities.”

Lead 

Grant said it would take “quite some time” to address the issue of lead contamination.

The EPA said earlier this year that the removal of lead pipes in the network will be a priority area for investment because of a more stringent lead standard for drinking water since the start of 2014.

“We need to invest at least €45 million over the next three to four years just dealing with the lead issue alone,” Grant said.

He added that between water production and waste-water treatment “we have a significant number of plants that need substantial investment”.

“On the water side at least 30 per cent of our water production plants need significant investment and are below the level that is recommended in terms of managing risk.

“On the waste-water side we’ve actually got a much bigger problem, because frankly the growth of the country has outstripped the capacity to provide waste-water treatment and in particular to meet the higher standards now expected under the EU Water Framework Directive.”

The plans also sets out the aim of reducing leaks from the current estimated level of 49 per cent to between 18 and 22 per cent by 2040.

leak2 Source: Irish Water

In its press release announcing the plan, Irish Water said the effort would “ensure the availability of safe drinking water, an environment that is protected from the impacts of wastewater discharges, and efficient modern systems that meet the needs of customers, contribute to economic growth and development, and provide value for money”.

Irish Water’s full plan can be viewed here.

The utility is asking for feedback from the public to be sent by 17 April.

Suggestions can be sent to: wssp@water.ie or by post to: Water Services Strategic Plan, Irish Water, P.O. Box 860, South City Delivery Office, Cork.

Additional reporting by Órla Ryan

Originally published at 8am

Read: Irish Water contractors are covering up the signs on some of their vans

Read: Irish Water will be reducing pressure as part of its “painstaking” effort to fix leaks

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