Irish Water increases investment in wastewater by 22%

The EPA Urban Wastewater report is a timely reminder of the decades of under investment in wastewater infrastructure in Ireland and the impact that this has had on communities all around the country.

This report reflects the status of over 1,000 schemes across Ireland, the lack of historic investment in wastewater treatment plants and the lack of standardised operation and maintenance provided by the industry, which was fragmented and under-funded up to 2014 when Irish Water was established.

Using the EPA figures, published today, it is clear that between 2000 and 2010, €270 million annually was invested in wastewater infrastructure in Ireland. From 2011 to 2013, there was a 50% drop in investment in wastewater infrastructure to €136 million. When Irish Water took over responsibility in 2014, the national utility set about reversing that trend. Between 2014 and 2015, Irish Water increased the investment in wastewater to €166 million, an increase of 22%. From 2016 to 2021, the remaining period of the Irish Water Business Plan, we are ramping up investment to spend an average of €326 million per year on wastewater infrastructure.

In addition to this investment, since Irish Water took over responsibility for water and wastewater in 2014, we have prioritised the health of our customers by focusing on improving drinking water. This has taken substantial investment and work at every stage of a very complex treatment, monitoring and testing process.

As with drinking water, Irish Water as a single utility can for the first time have an over-arching strategy on wastewater. We have a planned approach which will in time deliver sustained benefits in terms of improved compliance in wastewater treatment. Given the need to prioritise, the immediate investment focus has been on those wastewater projects which will deliver the maximum environmental returns and will be delivered to site quickly. This helps to facilitate future growth and economic investment and ensures that untreated water does not enter our rivers and seas, boosting tourism and protecting the local environment.

Speaking about the EPA report, Irish Water’s Head of Asset Management Seán Laffey, said: “Irish Water collects wastewater from over 1,000 separate communities connected to the wastewater network and treats around 1,600 million litres of wastewater daily before discharging it back into our rivers, harbours and coastal areas. By 2021, as outlined in the Irish Water Business Plan, we plan to have all discharges to our rivers and seas treated before being released. Our programme of work will include, not only improving capacity to ensure Irish Water can facilitate the growth of the new homes and industry but also protecting our coasts, which has a huge impact on tourism and local businesses.”

Irish Water has a plan to address all of the issues and concerns raised by the EPA and is already making progress. For example between 2016 and 2017, 482 of our wastewater treatment plants will have upgraded flow monitoring and sampling equipment. This is one of a range of programmes currently under way. Given the size and scale of the challenge, addressing all of the issues will take substantial investment and considerable time.

For more information on the improvements Irish Water is making to water and wastewater services across Ireland, please visit our Projects and Plans page.

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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