Irish Water responds to pipeline criticism

Irish Water has said that all feedback on the preferred scheme for a new water supply for the eastern and midlands region has been considered by the project team and will be summarised in the consultation report that will be published in the coming weeks.

The fourth non-statutory public consultation phase on the preferred scheme for a new water supply for the eastern and midlands region – officially known as the ‘Eastern and Midlands Water Supply Project’ – closed back in February.

A key part of this consultation was in relation to a proposed draft pipeline route corridor between Parteen Basin on the lower Shannon and Peamount in south Co. Dublin, the spokesperson said.

Consultations

“Approximately 500 landowners are impacted by the proposed pipeline route. We are in constant contact with affected landowners through our dedicated landowner liaison officers and this will continue as the project evolves.

“Consultations have taken place with landowner representative organisations, and it is anticipated that discussions will continue over the coming months in relation to a voluntary wayleave package to be offered to landowners,” said the spokesperson.

“Public participation has been an integral part of the water supply project, eastern and midlands region, since its commencement and has informed the development of the preferred scheme. Over 1,000 stakeholders participated in the latest consultation stage on the preferred scheme,” she said.

Irish Water has sought, listened to and responded to public feedback at every stage of the water supply project’s development, from assessing the need right through to identifying the preferred scheme.

“We have highlighted this in our consultation report, which shows where public and landowner feedback has directly influenced the project,” she added.

The consultation report, the spokesperson said, will include an updated assessment of water needs, consideration of requests by landowners to alter the proposed route as well as the details of the works proposed and the high-level timeline milestones for the project’s development.

“The project will be independently assessed by An Bord Pleanala under the strategic infrastructure planning process. We are also undertaking many activities and surveys necessary for the preparation of an Environmental Impact Assessment Report (EIAR) which will accompany the planning application to An Bord Pleanala.

“A small number of updates to our previously-published documentation, including an update to the 2015 project need report, are being prepared and will be published prior to submission of the planning application,” said the spokesperson.

Irish Water’s remit, she said, includes the delivery of a sustainable and resilient water supply nationally.

A new source and scheme is required to meet the needs of the eastern and midlands region of Ireland because the existing sources and infrastructure neither have the capacity, resilience nor connectivity to meet the region’s growing domestic and business requirements.

Irish Water is undertaking a national programme of works to reduce leakage, the spokesperson said. “The national target is to save approximately 166 million litres of water per day – that’s enough water to fill 70 Olympic-size swimming pools every day, reducing from approximately 47% to 37% nationally.

Leakage reduction

“The leakage reduction programme will see over €500 million invested over four years to reduce leakage and remove problematic pipes from the public water network. These works will help to ensure that we have a clean, safe and reliable water supply now and into the future to support our growing population and economy,” the spokesperson said.

This, she said, will be done through a combination of measures, including: ‘find and fix’; water mains renewal; and the first fix scheme for customer side leakage. “Mains replacement is just one part of the leakage reduction programme.

“The target mains replacement rate is 1%  – 630km/year of the 63,000km of network – to ensure that the network is renewed at least once every 100 years. Within the available capital funding under the 2017-2021 capital investment plan, Irish Water has balanced the cost of this replacement against the other national priorities such as waste water and drinking water quality,” the spokesperson said.

We have replaced 890km over the past four years and will replace approximately 720km more between now and 2021.

The leakage levels in the greater Dublin water supply area are lower than the national average, according to Irish Water.

“The estimate of leakage is 37% pre-Storm Emma, giving about 215 million litres per day (MLD) in total across 9,000km of network and at least 650,000 service connections, as well as the matrix of reservoirs and trunk mains – all of which contribute to the losses,” the spokesperson said.

“This is consistent with the British industry in the 1990s which took 20-25 years of sustained investment to reach the low to mid 20% figures today. The leakage reduction programme will save approximately 45MLD of water by 2021,” she said.

“Concentrating solely on fixing the leaks may seem a logical plan on paper. However, it would not be possible to fix all of the leaks in the network.

“In reality it would cost considerably more and take much longer than our alternative solution identified to have a new water supply source to provide water to the midland counties along the pipeline route from the Shannon to Dublin and to the greater Dublin region,” the spokesperson said.

Finding and fixing

“Irish Water is committed to finding and fixing leaks as well as bringing online a new water supply for these regions to ensure we have enough available water to meet current and future demands and to support our growing economy in the midlands and in the greater Dublin region,” said the spokesperson.

“Irish Water is finding and fixing leaks across the country and the benefitting corridor in the midlands in Tipperary, Offaly, Laois, Westmeath and Kildare. Combined with our programme of investment to find and fix leaks, the identified new water supply will ensure we can secure the water supply for future generations,” she said.

For example, if Irish Water was to fix all leaks in the greater Dublin area, it would involve potentially replacing up to 9,000km of pipeline alone as the whole network experiences leakage.

“This would take multiple decades and impact everything from domestic and commercial premises to the road and transport network. It would cause disruption to all of these sectors on an absolutely massive scale with consequential economic cost,” she said.

“If you consider the two-year disruption caused by the recent 10km Luas cross city project in Dublin it will give you some idea of what fixing all the leaks would actually look like in reality along the streets of the city and suburbs.

“The Luas cross city project also had the benefit of some flexibility to choose a route which would get the job done with the least impact. The existing water network is already in place so there would not be any flexibility to avoid added disruption,” the spokesperson said.

“Irish Water’s next investment plan submission to the Commission for Regulation of Utilities will include the justification for an increased investment in mains replacement; however, as in the current plan, it will have to balance the expenditure against competing priorities,” she said.

“The leakage reduction programme is replacing the most problematic water mains across the country made of various pipe material. Replacement works are prioritised based on a number of criteria including: the number of historical bursts; the underlying level of leakage in the area; water quality issues; the number of customers impacted by disruptions; and pressure levels,” the spokesperson said.

Simply fixing the leaks, important though that is, will not deliver the additional 330 million litres of water a day this region will need by 2050, she contended.

“The recent water restrictions in Dublin following Storm Emma showed the vulnerability of the water network and the potential for a devastating impact on homes, businesses and the economy of the country.

“If this situation is not addressed, then regular water outages are likely to become a feature of everyday life for the region in the future, compromising both current but also future social and economic development,” contended the spokesperson.