With so many people taking a holiday at home this year, it’s not surprising that Waterford was one of the first places on many people’s list as their top go-to destination. Ireland’s oldest city with its stunning natural harbour and the county’s expansive coastline welcomes thousands of water sport enthusiasts every year. Catching the perfect wave, learning how to kayak or just letting the kids or the dog paddle in the clean Déise waterways is an experience to savour.

But it wasn’t always that way. In 2014, raw sewage from the equivalent of 12,000 people was being discharged from Waterford into the Celtic Sea every day, impacting on tourism and the environment.

Working in partnership with Waterford City and County Council, Irish Water has eliminated the discharge of raw sewage in Waterford through the construction of new wastewater infrastructure in Ardmore and Dunmore East. The works also ensured that the water quality in the county’s rivers and lakes improved, it safeguarded human and environmental health while also protecting marine life. The works also ensured compliance with European and national regulatory standards.

The Mayor of Waterford, Councillor Damien Geoghegan sees the significance of the improvement even more so as the pandemic continues to enforce itself on the country. “With the latest Covid-19 restrictions meaning we must stay within our own counties; you begin to appreciate more what you have on your own doorstep. We are blessed in Waterford that we have so many fantastic locations where people can enjoy the sea and waterways with their families all year around and now that we can boast they are free from raw sewage; it is an extra feather in our cap.

Michael Tinsley, who is Wastewater Portfolio Delivery Manager for Irish Water outlined what the works delivered. “The investment of €24 million delivered seven new wastewater treatment plants in towns and villages across Co. Waterford. including Ardmore, Ballyduff/Kilmeadan, Cappoquin, Dunmore East, Kilmacthomas, Stradbally and Tallow. These areas have benefitted from these works and although Covid-19 has restricted business this year, there is no doubt that these locations are well positioned by way of wastewater infrastructure to plan for the future.

Tourism plays such a pivotal role in the economy of the county too. 2018 was a record year for tourism in the county with 797,000 tourists generating €163 million in revenue. Orna Holohan is Tourism Officer with Waterford County Council; she believes the works have helped the industry immensely.

Almost 90% of international tourists consider an unspoilt natural environment and beautiful scenery important when choosing a holiday destination. The pristine coastline of Waterford, which includes five Blue Flag beaches, six Green Coast sites and many more hidden gems, is an invaluable tourism asset for the County. Recent improvements in water treatment ensured Ardmore attained Blue Flag status and that further holiday homes and tourism infrastructure could be built in our picturesque towns & villages. When you interlace Waterford’s coastal splendour with meandering rivers, friendly urban centres, rugged mountains and the famous Waterford Greenway, the important role water quality plays in creating a world class tourism destination is clear.”

Since 2014, Irish Water has built new wastewater infrastructure for 16 towns and villages across the country, ending the discharge of raw sewage into our rivers, lakes and seas; the equivalent of 100,000 people’s worth, every day. Across the bay from Waterford, Irish Water will commence works to eliminate raw sewage entering the sea at the Barrow, Nore, Suir estuary in 2021 with a new wastewater treatment facility being built to serve Arthurstown, Ballyhack and Duncannon in Wexford. Half of the raw sewage entering waterways in Ireland has now been eliminated and there is a plan to remove the remainder.

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