Irish Water supplies drinking water for over 80% of the population

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has recognised Irish Water’s progress in delivering clean, safe, drinking water for communities across the country in their annual Drinking Water Report noting that many communities benefited from Irish Water’s investment in their drinking water supply in 2017.

Irish Water supplies drinking water for over 80% of the population meaning that every day 1.7 billion litres of drinking water is processed through over 900 Water Treatment Plants and travels through 63,000 kilometres of pipes to homes and businesses around the country. A safe and reliable supply of drinking water for homes and businesses is a key priority for Irish Water. This year’s EPA Report confirms that 99.9% of samples meet the bacteriological standard, while 99.8% meet all chemical standards for safe drinking water. The report also shows the progress on reducing restrictions due to Boil Water Notices and in the numbers affected by schemes on the EPA Remedial Action List.

Investment of €2billion between 2014 and 2021 to improve drinking water quality

A key aspect of producing safe drinking water has been an enhanced and systematic testing regime of drinking water, involving much more extensive testing. This enables our engineering and scientific specialists to identify risks to the drinking water supply quickly and react definitively and ensure that the EPA, HSE and the public are informed where water is considered unsafe to drink. Where there are issues, Irish Water also has the work programmes in pace to more quickly address these risk. These include both major investments in new and upgraded plants (examples include Central Kerry, Drogheda and Dundalk and Letterkenny plants) as well as improvement programmes which provide key upgrades within operating plants. In all this will amount to an investment plan of €2billion between 2014 and 2021 to improve drinking water quality.

Other important work done by Irish Water in 2017 

The EPA report recognises other work done by Irish Water in 2017 improving the quality of water for customers including; completing remedial works in 33 drinking water supplies; completing upgrades at 81 locations under the National Disinfection Programme; continuing to raise awareness and provide advice to consumers on lead in drinking water through advice letters and a YouTube video; using a standardised approach to dealing with pesticides in drinking water across the country; carrying out 24,879 hazard assessments at 316 drinking water supplies in 2017 - double the number carried out in 2016; and reducing the number of drinking water schemes on the EPA’s Remedial Action list from 99 to 77 in 12 months.

Much more remains to be done

The Report is clear however that much more remains to be done. It identifies that pesticide concentrations are a concern in an increasing number of plants and Irish Water is in full agreement that this is best addressed through catchment management. We are advancing Water Safety Plans for all of our larger supplies, with a key emphasis on minimising risks from source to tap. We are working to address the issue of chlorine by-products in drinking water (trihalomethanes) via a specific programme of treatment upgrades and later this year we will write to individual households outlining the background to this issue and our plans for addressing it. In that regard, we acknowledge the current water restrictions on the Lough Talt Scheme affecting over 10,000 people mainly in west Sligo and confirm that a Planning Application has been lodged for a new plant to address the issues.

Lead in drinking water

The report also notes the issue of lead pipes in properties leading to a health risk to infants and young children through lead pickup in the water supply. Irish Water is delivering on its programme to remove public side lead pipes and backyard shared lead supply pipes, as well as upgrading treatment where this is appropriate. We endorse the recommendation that lead pipes in public buildings and within households be replaced having regard to this important health issue.

Commenting on the EPA report, the General Manager of Irish Water, Eamon Gallen said “One of Irish Water’s key goals is that the same standard of service to consumers for water and wastewater will apply no matter where you live in the country. This is challenging given the varying condition of our water treatment plants and the level of work that is required. However, as a national utility, Irish Water is best placed to take a holistic view of the work that needs to be done and has the budget and expertise to deliver.”

“The EPA quite rightly recognises the progress that Irish Water has made and our effectiveness in dealing with water quality failures when they occur but also points to the on-going and future challenges that must be met including, developing a National Pesticide Strategy; completion of necessary work on water treatment plants to ensure a sustainable high quality safe supply of water that is not at risk of THMs; and continuation of our disinfection programme.”

“Overall, in 2017 public water supplies were 99% compliant meaning that the water was safe to drink. Given the size and scale of the legacy issues and condition of some of the water treatment plants, Irish Water is pleased that this is a solid base from which to build.”

Irish Water welcome and fully support the work of the EPA as an independent regulator in its reviews of our work and the outcomes being achieved.”

Carlow, Cavan, Clare, Cork, Donegal, Dublin, Galway, Kerry, Kildare, Kilkenny, Laois, Leitrim, Limerick, Longford, Louth, Mayo, Meath, Monaghan, Offaly, Roscommon, Sligo, Tipperary, Waterford, Westmeath, Wexford, Wicklow

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