Leakage Reduction Programme | January 2022
Much of Ireland’s water is lost to leaks before it reaches our taps.
Irish Water’s national Leakage Reduction Programme is fixing leaks and replacing pipes around the country to provide a safer more reliable water supply. This programme of works across Limerick is one example of how we are working to reduce leakage every day.
Reducing losses in a winning county
Irish Water, together with Limerick City and County Council and our delivery partner Shareridge, is delivering water network improvements through the national Leakage Reduction Programme. Since 2018, almost 22km of water mains have been replaced through strategic improvement projects. Other leakage reduction activities including ‘Find and Fix’ of leaks, ‘First Fix for Free’, District Metering Area improvements and management of water network pressure have collectively supported a major reduction in water lost through leakage across the City and County.
Over 33 million litres of water have now been saved. Everyone can visualise what a litre of milk looks like on the kitchen counter, so it is easy to see this is a huge volume of clean drinking water saved.
Ensuring a safe and reliable water supply for critical water users
Providing a reliable water supply for all customers is of critical importance. Throughout 2020 with the increased focus on public health, this was even more pronounced. The water mains on St. Nessans Road is the primary water supply for University Hospital Limerick. This water main was old and had a history of bursts which impacted the hospital and wider community. It was therefore strategically targeted for replacement. The successful completion of this project ensures a more reliable supply of water for critical users now and into the future.
“A reliable water supply is critical to the hospitals day to day operation. Water is necessary 24 hours a day 7 days a week. The water main supplying the hospital was problematic as it burst frequently and left the hospital without a fresh supply of water. The staff at UHL are going above and beyond the call of duty during these challenging times, and to have a safe and reliable water supply now means one less worry as they care for their patients. The works that Irish Water have carried out will benefit the county of Limerick for years to come.“
John Heelan - Mechanical Services Officer at University Hospital Limerick
Replacing even short sections of problematic watermains can be very disruptive within a local community due to traffic management and interruptions to the water supply. Water mains are laid underground along with other services such as sewers, gas, telecoms and electricity. The density of underground services is particularly high in urban areas like Limerick City. These works require careful design, planning and approvals to safely deliver vital improvements to the underground water network.
Replacing Backyard Services to improve water quality
A strategic programme to replace old back yard water mains and services in Limerick is also pivotal to reducing leakage and improving water quality. 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. In addition to the health concerns around lead the pipework can cause major supply disruptions in these communities. To date, 430 water services to individual homes have been replaced across the city.
Driving water savings across Limerick
Repairing bursts on the water network is disruptive but easy to find as the water surfaces above ground. Leaks are a greater challenge as they are underground and therefore not visible. Quality information about water usage and flow is critical to understanding where underground leaks may be. A District Meter Area improvement programme was prioritised across the city. These upgrades facilitated a better understanding of both water usage and flow, directing Find and Fix crews to where they were needed most. Through these data improvements 565 major leaks have been repaired resulting in savings of over 16 million litres of clean water – that’s enough water to fill 6 Olympic size swimming pools!
Managing pressure to reduce leaks
High pressure is used in the water network to move water uphill, around bends and directly to taps in our homes and businesses. This pressure can cause problems for ageing pipes, fittings and outlets. It can also cause leakage leading to loss of valuable water and disruption to customers. Managing pressure in the water network helps reduce surges and maintain even flows. We are constantly managing pressure on the public water network. Across Limerick 7 new valves have been installed to manage water pressure on the network and 54 pressure loggers fitted to better understand where our underground challenges may be.
The people of Limerick get involved in saving water to reduce leakage
The First Fix for Free scheme aims to help reduce the amount of water wasted through leaks on customers' properties. Where data from a domestic meter indicates there may be a leak at the property, homeowners are contacted directly. They are asked to initially check inside the home for a leak, like a leaking kitchen appliance or outside tap. Where there is no leak within the home a free leak investigation is undertaken. Many homeowners have completed leak repairs inside their homes with a further 530 successful leak repairs completed as a result of the First Fix for Free scheme.
Providing a more reliable water supply across Limerick
Tackling the complex challenge of leakage requires delivery of a number of different work streams which collectively reduce leakage, improve water quality and provide a safer more reliable water supply for Limerick homes and businesses.
“The hard work across the city and county in Limerick is paying off. People often think that the solution to our leakage problem in this Country is to replace all the pipes. The rate and which we could do that would mean sprinting to stand still. We have had to take a much more aggressive approach to deal with leakage head on. In Limerick we continue to deliver a programme of works that are collectively driving leakage down. What we are doing in collaboration with Limerick City and County Council, our delivery partner and local communities is absolutely having an effect. Improving water quality, reducing leakage and providing a more reliable water supply to the people of Limerick.“
Gerry O'Donnell - Leakage Reduction Engineer for Mid-West Region