Athlone Town

Leakage Reduction Programme | May 2021

Much of Ireland’s water is lost to leaks before it reaches our taps.

Irish Water’s national Leakage Reduction Programme is improving the water network and fixing leaks around the country to provide a more reliable water supply. This programme of works in Athlone is one example of how we are working with our partners to reduce leakage every day.

A collaborative journey

Savings of 5.3 million litres of water a day provides a safer more reliable water supply for homes and businesses in Athlone.

In 2018, due to operational challenges, Athlone Town was experiencing regular interruptions to the water supply. Dated, fragile infrastructure coupled with aged district meters to measure flows were a complex part of the challenge. Improvements to the water network and leakage reduction works would prove to be critical in resolving the disruption being faced by homes and businesses in the town.

Working in partnership, Irish Water and Westmeath County Council identified key issues impacting the water network and developed a plan that would reduce leakage and secure the water supply.

Since this programme of works was rolled out, 5.3 million litres of water per day have been saved in Athlone to date. Close collaboration with Westmeath County Council and our regional contractors, GMC Utilities, was crucial in achieving these results. The project was focused from the beginning on completing preliminary works, managing interdependencies of project completion, and securing community support. Local knowledge of the historical network also proved vital.

Planning a solution for Athlone

We began by investigating the issues being experienced in Athlone Town and devised a plan that would help reduce leakage and create necessary efficiencies in the water network. This programme of works included:

  • Improving District Meter Area data through public meter upgrades
  • Implementing targeted Find and Fix of leaks
  • Delivering water main replacements works
  • Intensifying engagement with customers to increase leak investigations under the First Fix Free scheme
  • Renewing water pipes through Backyard Service replacement programme

District Meter Area improvement programme

Quality information and data about water usage and flow is critical to understanding where underground leaks may be. A District Meter Area improvement programme across the town was prioritised where 107 district meters on the public water network were either installed or replaced. These strategic upgrades facilitated a better understanding of both water usage and flow, directing Find and Fix crews to where they were needed most.

A critical project - Backyard Service Replacement

In some older properties, water connections typically made of iron or lead, were often installed to the rear of the property. These are referred to as Backyard Service connections. Due to age and the deteriorating condition of the pipework these Backyard Services are a significant source of leakage resulting in reduced levels of service to people in these communities.

751 new individual water connections were completed in Athlone resulting in improved water quality and a combined water savings of over 1.6 million litres of water per day.

Replacing the pipes

As part of the Leakage Reduction Programme almost 23km of aged watermains across Athlone have also been replaced. In addition, 217 leaks have been repaired through Irish Water’s Find and Fix scheme, resulting in over 3 million litres of water saved per day.

These strategic network infrastructure upgrades not only reduced leakage but delivered improvements in water quality and pressure through replacement of aged cast iron and lead services.

Engaging with local communities

Collaboration and partnership between Irish Water, Westmeath County Council and GMC Utilities was key in the planning, co-ordination and successful delivery of these works.

The project vision was understood, shared, and supported across the community. Communicating with stakeholders and the local community, was critical to maintaining trust and confidence through the project and ensuring successful delivery of the works.

“As a result of the collaborative work between Irish Water and Westmeath County Council, customers in Athlone are enjoying a more reliable water supply. The works undertaken are benefiting customers in the area by reducing interruptions to supply and improving water quality. Completion has also had benefits in creating operational efficiencies avoiding the need to manage frequent repairs of problematic water mains. The installation of new water pipes will contribute to safeguarding the water supply in Athlone and reduce water lost to leakage. We would like to join in thanking the community for their patience during the works of which the benefits will be seen for many years.“

Alan Kelly - Senior Executive Engineer, Westmeath County Council

Providing a more reliable water supply in Athlone

The size, scale and complexity of the leakage challenge meant that efforts to tackle it would be driven through delivery of a number of different work streams below as part of the national Leakage Reduction Programme.

217 leaks repaired through Find and Fix scheme

143 leaks repaired through First Fix Scheme

751 connections replaced as part of Backyard Services Scheme

107 district meters on public water network installed or replaced

23km of new watermains installed

“These works formed part of a significant investment by Irish Water to upgrade the water network in Athlone as part of the national Leakage Reduction Programme. We were acutely aware of the operational challenges in Athlone and impact on daily life of the community. Westmeath County Council were fantastic, and their local knowledge of the network was key to driving success of the works. The different work streams have resulted in savings of over 5 million litres of water a day. This achievement is a fitting testament to the collaborative effort between Irish Water, GMC Utilities and working in close partnership with Westmeath County Council. Working together we have had a positive impact on leakage and the daily lives of local communities across Athlone. We would like to take the opportunity to thank the local community for their support while we completed this vital upgrade to the water infrastructure.“

Sinead Kennedy - Irish Water, Field Engineer