Galway is feeling the effects of Covid restrictions the same as the rest of the country. So many businesses have closed, others are working on a reduced capacity, towns around the county and the city are starved of footfall and the strain on the economy and its people is being felt strongly.

While the situation is difficult right now, Galway is well placed to emerge from these restrictions strong with resilient infrastructure in place to aid economic, social and population growth into the future.

Since Irish Water took over the management of water and wastewater services in 2014, Galway has enjoyed millions of euros worth of investment to secure and develop these services which are the backbone of a thriving economy. To get some idea as to the scale of the challenge and the work being done we spoke to some experts.

Cathaoirleach of Galway County Council Cllr James Charity says: “So many of our businesses are struggling. There are some who have closed, there are others who are keeping their staff in employment although at a loss to themselves, there are others who may not open again. But for Galway to grow and prosper into the future we have to remind ourselves and the outside world of the level of infrastructure that we enjoy here in Galway making this city and county a premier destination for business development.

Galway tourism has grown steadily over recent years. Fáilte Ireland statistics for Co Galway, for example, estimate that there were 2.7m visitors to the county in 2017, generating nearly €840m in revenue. Overseas tourists account for the majority of demand, though domestic demand also accounts for a substantial proportion of Galway’s tourism activity.

Cathaoirleach Charity continued: “In 2018 we saw tourism increase by six per cent in the Republic of Ireland. This figure increased again in 2019 before Covid-19 hit in 2020.

We hope to be in a position to welcome international visitors back to Galway in 2021 when it is safe to do so. Galway remains a popular destination for international visitors indicated by our recent win as the Conde Nast Friendliest City in Europe Award. Our tourism industry is busy working with the international operators and planning a return of international guests again soon.

Cathaoirleach Charity thanked Irish Water for their continued investment in Galway. “In the city alone there are approximately 24 kilometres of old watermain being replaced and the old sewer network, one of the oldest in the country, is being relined and rehabilitated and this has been welcomed by businesses and residents in the city centre. We will continue to work with Irish Water to identify emerging needs and ensure there is a consistent delivery of investment.” 

Every day Irish Water treats over 100 million litres of water to supply over 200,000 customers in Galway City and County. This water travels through 2,600 kilometres of pipeline before it reaches your tap, however it first has to be abstracted from a lake, a river or a borehole, treated and tested before it can be sent safely on its way.

Dr Pat O’Sullivan, Irish Water’s lead scientist for the North West adds: “A rigorous sampling and testing regime is in place to ensure the water that is supplied to customers meets all Irish and European regulations. Unfortunately this wasn’t always the case and through the sampling and testing programme many issues came to light over the last few years. Since 2014, 17 water supplies in Galway were added to and have since been removed from the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Remedial Action List (RAL). This is a list of at-risk schemes that require investment to bring them up to standard. Following years of investment there are no areas in Galway classified at risk, a great result for the city and county.

People in Galway will be familiar with the term Boil Water Notice. A Boil Water Notice is imposed on a water supply by Irish Water following consultation with the HSE when an issue arises that concerns public health. In 2016 alone there were six Galway supplies on Boil Water Notices. Thankfully today that number is zero.

The backbone of Irish Water is the wealth of experience we have in terms of engineers, scientists and other professionals. Public health is Irish Water’s number one priority and together with our Local Authority colleagues in Galway City and Council Councils and the contractors we work with, we are ensuring Galway enjoys a safe and secure public water supply.

In the past few years in Galway over 73 kilometres of old and damaged pipes have been upgraded or replaced. In the city the mains rehabilitation programme is almost complete and will have replaced a further 20 kilometres of leaky and damaged pipes. Almost 20 million litres of water per day that was leaking from broken pipes has been saved through various different work streams. That’s enough to supply approximately 150,000 people every day!

From the Aran Islands to Athenry and Headford to Gort, between Irish Water and our partners in Galway City and County Council water service departments we have a presence in every parish and we are working daily to ensure our customers receive a continuous water and wastewater service.

Irish Water’s leakage reduction programme is very active in Galway. Fixing leaks can be complicated with over 63,000 km of water pipe in Ireland. Most leaks aren’t visible, resulting in precious water being lost but we are making progress. In 2018 the rate of leakage nationally was 46%, by the end of 2019 it was 42% and we are currently on course to achieving a national leakage rate of 38% by 2021,” explains Dave Murphy, Irish Water.

None of this could be achieved without our partnership with Galway City and County Council’s water services departments. Lieze Fanning, Senior Engineer and Head of Water Services with Galway City Council explains: “We are in a strong position to recover from Covid-19. Galway is an attractive place to live, work and visit and we are working hard to maintain that positive reputation.

It is imperative that we thank our frontline workers; our outdoor staff, caretakers, and engineers who are working continuously through these restrictions to ensure the smooth running of our water and wastewater services. Every day our staff are out fixing leaks and looking after the day to day operational upgrade and maintenance of our networks. They are the true heroes who despite the weather, whether it be drought, storm or snow, keep the show on the road.

Whenever the country begins to emerge from Covid restrictions and economic growth is reignited, Irish Water and Galway City and County Councils are confident Galway will be in a strong position to attract industry, grow population and welcome back high levels of tourists due to the resilient nature of its water infrastructure following years of investment and ongoing upgrade works. For further information, visit the Projects and Plans section of the Irish Water website.

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