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Uisce Éireann plays its part in protecting bathing water quality through investment in essential wastewater infrastructure

16 May 2024

Information below is relevant until further updates are provided here or on our Supply and Service Updates section.

Uisce Éireann is participating in the National Bathing Water Expert Group and the Dublin Bay Bathing Water Taskforce

Uisce Éireann, the national water utility, is committed to continuously maintaining, upgrading, and developing critical water and wastewater infrastructure to protect and enhance the environment while enabling communities to thrive. With over 1000 wastewater treatment plants and 26,000 km of public sewers, Uisce Éireann treats 1.2 billion litres of wastewater every day before safely returning it to the environment.

While primary responsibility for the monitoring and managing of bathing waters lies with local authorities, Uisce Éireann recognizes that its activities can impact bathing waters in some locations. Other contributory factors impacting bathing water quality can include dog and bird faeces, runoff from roads, upstream agriculture and forestry, misconnections, septic tanks.

Uisce Éireann  works to ensure that its assets do not negatively impact bathing water at designated locations and that they operate in compliance with the Urban Wastewater Treatment Directive, the Bathing Water regulations and any further standards as licensed by the EPA.   

We are continuing to work proactively with all stakeholders to support improvements in bathing water quality, protecting and enhancing our coastal and inland waterways in collaboration with the other agencies with responsibility in this area – the Local Authorities, EPA, HSE, and industry and academic partners. Uisce Éireann is participating in the National Bathing Water Expert Group and the Dublin Bay Bathing Water Taskforce.   

The utility's investment in essential infrastructure, exceeding €1.2 billion last year, has led to significant improvements in wastewater compliance. This includes the elimination of 70% of raw sewage discharge since 2014 by building new treatment plants in 34 towns and villages where none previously existed. In addition to these completed sites, we currently have 6 locations under construction across the country.

One success story is the completion of a new treatment plant in Spiddal, Co Galway in December 2023, resulting in the elimination of raw sewage discharge and improved bathing water quality. EPA Bathing Waters are designated based on results from rolling four year datasets and with the completion of the new sewerage scheme we anticipate that improvements will be observed in the Bathing Water designation in the coming years. 

Eleanor Roche, Uisce Éireann’s Head of Environmental Regulation, said: “As the EPA has noted, urban wastewater treatment is just one of many elements that affect bathing water quality. However, the positive impact of our investment in wastewater is evident around the country with continued improvements in water quality in several locations where Uisce Éireann has completed upgrade projects to end raw sewage discharges, such as in Spiddal in Co Galway.

We will continue to play our part in protecting and enhancing our coastal and inland waterways in collaboration with the other agencies with responsibility in this area. We are also working to increase understanding of how public wastewater networks operate and the different pressures on bathing waters such as dog fouling and sewer-related litter, through partnerships with various stakeholders including UCD’s Acclimatize Project and the Clean Coasts Think Before You Flush/Pour campaign.”

Increasing rainfall is leading to more storm water overflow events. For example, July 2023 was the wettest July on record, while this March was the third wettest ever. This extreme weather brings many challenges for water and wastewater network. To mitigate the impact of this, Uisce Éireann has plans in place to upgrade infrastructure across the country and we continue to work with all stakeholders including Local Authorities, the EPA and industry and academic partners to protect and enhance our coasts and waterways. 

Last year the utility invested over €1.2 billion to upgrade Ireland’s critical water and wastewater infrastructure. This included the completion of the infrastructure upgrades at Ireland’s largest wastewater treatment plant in Ringsend to provide the infrastructure to treat the wastewater for the equivalent of 2.1 million people in compliance with the Urban Wastewater Treatment Directive. By the end of 2025, the Ringsend Wastewater Treatment Plant will be able to treat wastewater for a 2.4 million population equivalent while meeting the required standards with all remaining ancillary works completed in 2026. Other key projects completed during 2023 included new or upgraded wastewater treatment plants in Roscommon and Mallow, while works to eliminate raw sewage discharges were completed in Kilmore Quay, Spiddal, Castletownshend, Inchigeelagh, Clarecastle, Liscannor, Kilcar, Kerrykeel, Ahascragh and Burtonport.