2 July 2018 Go back to News
Irish Water Planning for a Resilient Water Supply for the Eastern & Midlands Region
Midlands water supply at constant risk of restrictions, our plan will:
We have noted some recent media reports suggesting that the supply / demand deficit in the Eastern and Midlands region can be addressed by fixing existing infrastructure, without the need for a new major source of water in the short term.
This statement is misleading and does not reflect the reality of the situation facing the region. Without the planned Water Supply Project, Eastern and Midlands region which will abstract water from Parteen basin on the lower river Shannon, the region faces serious water outages more frequently and with more serious consequences such that it will impact social & economic development in the region.
Today, We are managing water supply services in areas like Mullingar, Athlone and East Meath on a week to week basis, with a constant risk of restrictions. In the current dry weather, the limitations of groundwater sources is becoming evident, with demand exceeding the rate of borehole re-charge in areas like Portlaoise and Kilkenny. In the Greater Dublin Area, We are relying on the goodwill of householders & businesses to keep demand within the limits of what we can produce, with our Liffey plants operating at full capacity. More seriously, the levels in the main reservoir at Poulaphuca are tracking those of 1976, which means that as we go forward into Autumn, we may be forced to limit abstractions further, with enforced restrictions. Over the coming years, with growing population and employment, failure to provide a further major supply to the Eastern & Midlands region would seriously damage the economy and the reputation of the region for secure water service.
It has been suggested that the issue can be dealt with by a focus on the upgrading infrastructure and leakage management alone. This ignores the reality of managing the water supply to a city region. The Greater Dublin Area is served by over 9,000km of water mains of varying age and condition and leakage is spread across the entire water main network. This region grew rapidly in the second half of the twentieth century, with the network today being twice that in 1980 and four times that in 1960 and it will continue to grow as the population grows. While the older areas have problems with cast iron pipes, much of the newer networks were developer laid and are equally prone to leaks. Network leakage is approximately 37 of water supplied today in this region and Irish Water has commenced work on a major leakage reduction programme which replicates what has been done in Britain & Northern Ireland where levels of 20-25% have been achieved after decades of major investment. Our work includes pipe replacement at the maximum level that can be delivered within technical constraints such as traffic, water outage impacts and general disruption to business and communities in the city.
Around 40% of the water produced each day is supplied to households. Based on continuous night time flows and domestic meter data Irish Water estimates that 7% of the total water produced is lost due to household side leakage. Irish Water has been providing technical support to households to resolve household leaks, including a ‘First Fix Free’ scheme which applies where a leak is identified by the meter and is external to the property. While major savings have been achieved by the First Fix Free Scheme, much of this was absorbed in higher customer service, while new leaks develop over time especially with winter low temperatures and plumbing defects. Irish Water expects that continued support and information campaigns will help to bring the household leakage component to below 5%.
The work on leakage and network upgrading will barely meet the needs of new housing & employment over the next 7-8 years and will do nothing to increase resilience in the system. This means that shortages will continue for extreme weather events or other contingencies like a pollution event or major infrastructure failure. The development of the Water Supply Project, Eastern and Midlands Region to augment the region’s supply will provide the critical buffer capacity to withstand these pressures, support planned development and protect Ireland’s reputation for sustainable industry, tourism and public health. The project will put the region on a par with other European city regions in terms of reliable resilient water services. In parallel with the new water supply, the programme of leakage management & pipe replacement must continue to support service reliability and to meet the strict targets set out by Ireland in the latest River Basin Management Plan which sets out the actions that Ireland will take to improve water quality in rivers, lakes, estuaries and coastal waters by 2027.