Is the Shannon Pipeline project needed for Dublin?

Irish Water’s Shannon Pipeline Project – was brought under the spotlight this week when the topic was discussed on RTE Radio 1’s Today With Sean O’Rourke.

The project – which is formally known as the ‘new water supply project for the eastern and midlands region’ – proposes laying down a pipeline to bring water all the way from the Parteen Basin on the River Shannon in Co. Tipperary to the outskirts of Dublin.

Speaking on the programme, Emma Kennedy, a corporate lawyer and founder of Kennedy Analysis, claimed that there were several flaws with the project – including mathematical issues – and that there would be no need for the project if the existing leaks in the city were repaired.

Leaks

“There’s two slightly separate issues here; if you look at the demand, on the one hand you can look at the Shannon project and whether there’s genuinely a need for it.

“For that you can read the Kennedy Analysis overview, which is on our website,” the lawyer said.

“That demonstrates three major mathematical and data errors in Irish Water’s analysis. Once corrected, [this demonstrates that there is no need for a project of the size of the Shannon project – even if you just adopt Irish Water’s current leakage recovery targets, which are unambitious.”

Kennedy claimed that the mathematics Irish Water had used were wrong, something that Irish Water refutes. The vast majority – 84% – of Dublin’s water supply comes from the River Liffey, according to Irish Water.

“Correcting just three errors takes Irish Water’s projection of a 255 million litre per day deficit by 2050, it becomes a surplus,” Kennedy added.

“This means that, instead of having to rely on the Shannon, which is yet another surface water source for Dublin – which currently has 99% surface water sources – Dublin can have a much less expensive non surface water option.”

‘Decades of underinvestment’

Richard Manton, policy officer of Engineers Ireland, noted that there was certainly a major issue in terms of the capacity of water in the greater Dublin area.

He agreed that there had been “decades of underinvestment” in the city’s water system and added that other sources of water need to be identified for the Dublin region.

However, Manton said that he believes that Irish Water’s targets are in fact ambitious; Dublin currently loses nearly half its purified water supplies – the company’s target is to reduce this down to 35% over the next few years, he said.

I think that is quite ambitious given the lack of investment that has been put in the network to date.

Manton also made the point that Dublin will continue to grow in the coming years. According to the National Planning Framework, the Dublin area will continue to grow, with a projected increase of about 265,000 people in the next 20 years.

Revisiting aquifiers option

Sinn Fein spokesperson on housing Eoin O’Broin added that there are other options for sourcing water which are closer to Dublin in the form of ‘aquifiers’.

These are underground water sources which were ruled out by Irish Water at an early stage, but were dismissed using “out of date data”, O’Broin said. He called Irish Water to consider the aquifiers again using up-to-date data, as they would be a much cheaper option.

O’Broin also queried whether there would be environmental impacts from the pipeline.

He added that even if the Shannon pipeline project goes ahead – which will cost upwards of €1 billion – the earliest water would be pumped into Dublin from it would be around 2025 or 2026.

O’Broin said that Irish Water had promised a published response to query submissions, and to give its preferred final option in the middle of last year before applying for planning permission in September of last year. None of this came about, he alleged.