Integrated national plan for the next quarter of a century now open for consultation.

The first integrated plan for the delivery of water services in Ireland has been published today (19th February 2015) by Irish Water in its draft format for public consultation. The Water Services Strategic Plan (WSSP) sets out the strategies we need to implement as a country in the short, medium and longer term to 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. The document addresses six key themes of customer service, clean safe drinking water, effective treatment of wastewater, a sustainable environment, supporting economic growth and investing for the future.

“We have never had a national plan for water in Ireland – one that looks at the country as a whole,” said Jerry Grant of Irish Water. “Despite the good work of the Local Authorities, much greater investment and a nationally coordinated approach to asset management, maintenance and operating standards is needed to address weaknesses in the water services systems. These weaknesses include high levels of water leakage, varying standards in water quality, disruptions to supply, and environmental compliance issues in relation to waste water discharges. The new funding model for Irish Water, based on revenue collection and reinvestment, is necessary to ensure that the public water services can meet current and future requirements and deliver standards of which we can all be proud. This plan sets out the objectives for these services and the strategies for how the objectives will be achieved.”

Delivering on the WSSP over the next 25 years requires an unprecedented transformation in how the industry operates and in the levels of investment. The WSSP sets out the challenges we face as a country in relation to the provision of water services and identifies strategic national priorities. The draft Plan has been developed following an initial consultation with statutory bodies and the public in mid-2014 and has been subjected to a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) and an Appropriate Assessment (AA). Now, Irish Water is inviting all stakeholders and customers to review the draft Plan and to give their input.

“People may be broadly aware of the challenges we face based on the recent EPA reports on the states of water supply and wastewater quality nationally for 2013,” said Jerry Grant. “The quality of our drinking water is variable, with over 23,000 people on Boil Water Notices and up to 900,000 people served by 126 water treatment plants classified by the EPA as being “at risk”. Large numbers of customers regularly face water supply interruptions, often followed by water quality issues and we have a major challenge to meet the lead standards for our customers in older houses and other buildings; we have high levels of water leakage throughout the system; waste water discharges from many of our large urban areas do not meet the required standards and sewage is being discharged untreated from 44 of our collection systems. The draft WSSP proposes a balanced, coherent, and integrated national approach to prioritise the urgent measures, both operational and investment, to develop a service that meets our short term needs and is still fit for purpose in 25 years.”

“It is a hugely expensive process to take water from our rivers and lakes and the ground, and turn it into clean drinking water,” said Jerry Grant. “It is equally expensive to collect wastewater, treat it, and return it safely to the environment. To put this in context, running the national network of water treatment and wastewater treatment plants consumes more electricity than any industry in the entire country. As well as delivering higher capacity and quality standards, our plans must increase efficiency, improve resilience to climate change effects and promote more sustainable practises.”

This second round of public consultation runs for two months to the 17th April 2015. Documents will be available to the public on the Irish Water website and in Local Authority offices and public libraries.

Those who wish to comment can do so by emailing wssp@water.ie or via post to:

Water Services Strategic Plan
Irish Water
P.O. Box 860
South City Delivery Office
Cork

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