The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has just published their annual report on the condition of Ireland’s drinking water and the results show that Irish Water’s strategy and investment are having a really positive impact on communities across the country. 

In their 2014 report the EPA made several recommendations to Irish Water, all of which Irish Water has accepted and which form part our current capital investment and operational programmes.

Between 2014 and 2021, Irish Water is committed to investing €2 billion to delivering safe, secure drinking water supplies for communities all across Ireland. This will be achieved with a number of key strategies and approaches.

Irish Water is implementing a National Disinfection Strategy which is prioritising protection of customers against the risk of E.coli and cryptosporidium. A key element of this approach is the implementation of our Water Safety Plans which assess and reduce risk to drinking water quality. We currently have 288 Water Safety Plans in progress. These plans are driving a major asset improvement programme across our vulnerable plants.

At the establishment of Irish Water in 2014, 16,003 customers were already on Boil Water Notices and 15,804 customers have since had these Boil Water Notices lifted. Since 2014 128,789 customers were placed on Boil Water Notices to ensure the protection of public health as a result of Irish Water monitoring and testing. Irish Water’s investment in drinking water supplies has resulted in 121,645 of these customers benefiting from Boil Water Notices being lifted. As of the end of October 2016, a total of 7,144 people are on Boil Water Notices.

In July, Irish Water published our Lead in Drinking Water Mitigation Plan and put our measures for reducing the impact of lead in drinking water out to public consultation with a nationwide media and stakeholder campaign. Irish Water has increased the lead in drinking water sampling programme to 36,000 samples this year and are working with local authorities on the pipe replacement in shared backyard services. We will shortly commence the installation of anti-corrosion treatment in priority plants.
 
The EPA has recommended the development of a national pesticides strategy to protect water sources. Irish Water recognises this as an emerging risk as we extend our monitoring and testing programmes. It is widely recognised that the most effective means of addressing this issue is the education and awareness of landowners and/or pesticide users within the catchment area of the drinking water abstraction point.

Irish Water does not have a statutory remit in terms of catchment management and therefore it requires collaboration from statutory agencies, national and local government and others, all of whom are working with us to develop a strategy to reduce this risk. 

The presence of Trihalomethanes (THMs) in the drinking water supply can pose a long term health risk. Irish Water recognises the scale of this challenge and are currently implementing a five year plan to address this legacy issue. We report to the European Commission on a quarterly basis on our progress.  Ultimately, in many cases the reduction of THMs to compliant levels will require major upgrades or the construction of new water treatment plants. This takes time for the planning process and design and construction phases.

Commenting on the EPA’s Drinking Water Compliance Report, the MD of Irish Water, Jerry Grant said, “Irish Water as a national utility has developed the capability to take a nationwide approach to protecting and safeguarding drinking water for communities. As a country we are lucky to have many safe and reliable sources of fresh raw water that we can treat and use but many factors including soil, rock types, how we use our land, or even very heavy rainfall can negatively affect the quality of our drinking water. Being able to turn on a tap to get clean safe water is something that many of us take for granted. However, this takes considerable investment and work at every stage of a very complex treatment, monitoring and testing process. We have replaced an ad-hoc approach with a more systematic and coherent programme combined with increased investment and enhanced operation." 
 
He added, “This EPA Drinking Water Compliance Report clearly shows that the strategy, investment and implementation from Irish Water is having a very positive outcome for communities across the country. It is essential that people have confidence in their drinking water and know that Irish Water is moving swiftly and decisively in cooperation with EPA and HSE wherever those high standards are not met. That’s why this report from the EPA is so important. Irish Water welcomes having an independent agency reviewing the work that we do to safeguard drinking water. This ensures the work of Irish Water is audited and held to the highest standards.”

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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