‘Ireland’s water pipes are at the end of the line’

Emma Kennedy, the founder of Kennedy Analysis, has responded to a statement from Engineers Ireland that the delivery of critical water supply projects is required to solve water supply shortages in Dublin and the midlands.

The corporate lawyer recently appeared on RTE‘s ‘Prime Time’ to highlight what she described as “the folly of the Shannon water extraction scheme.”

According to the startling findings of a recent report from Engineers Ireland – entitled ‘State of Ireland 2018 – A Review of Infrastructure in Ireland’ – just 20% of chartered engineers believe the country’s infrastructure is in good shape.

In the report, water and flooding infrastructure received a ‘C’ grade – as it was deemed to be inadequately maintained, unable to meet peak demand and that in need of significant investment.

Major projects including the Water Supply Project – Eastern and Midlands Region and the Greater Dublin Drainage Project are needed to “support growth for the next generation”, the report stated.

Leakage should be reduced from 44% to 35% in the next five years, presenting the opportunity to save 22,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools of water per year.

The report also stated that 118 flood relief schemes must be delivered strategically to protect 95% of properties identified as high-risk, according to the report.

The need for new flood forecasting and warning systems to be expanded to deal effects of climate change were also highlighted in the paper.

“The shortage of engineers and other construction professionals are risking our capacity to deliver critical infrastructure projects,” it stated.

Population increase

Caroline Spillane, director general of Engineers Ireland said: “Severe water shortages faced recently by thousands of households and businesses across the Dublin, eastern and midlands regions will continue to get much worse if key water supply projects for these areas are not delivered.”

She contended that the water supply project for the eastern and midlands region  – that is expected to source water from the River Shannon – is a critical piece of infrastructure that needs to be delivered as soon as possible.

“The eastern and midlands region water supply project is the first major new water source in the region for more than 60 years.

The initiative has the capacity to meet the ever-increasing domestic and commercial water needs of more than 40% of the Irish population beyond 2050.

Irish Water has identified that sourcing water from the lower River Shannon is the “best supply option” based on: cost; environmental impact; and the potential benefit to the wider region and Ireland as a whole.

“With water supply to the Dublin and midlands region in an extremely precarious state, any delays that derail this project will only worsen an already severe situation for towns and businesses in these areas,” said Spillane.

Climate change

Peter Quinn, president of Engineers Ireland said: “Our report sets out two and five-year priority actions which are necessary to improve the performance of our infrastructure networks.

“These priority recommendations need to be delivered if we are to meet current environmental, social and economic challenges. And only sustained action in these areas will enable us to mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change,” he said.

Heather Humphreys, the Minister for Business, Enterprise, and innovation, has insisted that the Government is committed to investing in strategic national infrastructure that is vital to Ireland in line with the Government’s recently published Ireland Project 2040 goals.

“In order to future-proof our economy, we will continue to make significant long-term investments in areas like water, flood defences; communications; waste; transport; education; health and enterprise in urban and rural regions.

“These investments will facilitate a modern capital infrastructure that boosts competitiveness, creates jobs and supports sustainable Irish economic growth with raised living standards into the future,” the minister said.

‘Cracked system’

Kennedy – whose husband’s family farm near Nenagh would be impacted by the proposed Shannon to Dublin pipeline – said she “fully agrees” that Ireland’s water infrastructure is in a third world state.

However, she contends that the plan will result in more and more water being piped into a cracked system.

“The water will leak straight into the ground through cracks in the pipes. It is wasteful and short-sighted planning.

This policy is what got Ireland into this mess and the Shannon pipeline would be more of the same.

She claims that Irish Water previously made “misleading statements” about the amount of money that it plans to spend on fixing leaks.

“It cited €8.8 billion; but only a tiny fraction of that actually is earmarked for cutting leaks. Most of it relates to other projects – including the Shannon pipe.

“The planned spend on leaks for the entire country is just €125 million per year for four years – which is an annual spend of less than 10% of the cost of the proposed Shannon pipeline,” she claimed.

“The leakage targets in this report makes them look much more ambitious than they actually are. The true target is a 7.7% reduction in five years.

“This is shockingly low, given the scale of the problem in Ireland. Other European countries have recently reduced their leakage much faster than this. For example, Scotland has reduced its leakage by 55% in 10 years and in London its been reduced by 30% in six years,” she said.

Heatwaves

According to Kennedy, Ireland’s water pipes are “at the end of the line”.

They are well beyond their life expectancy. They are now so fragile that cold snaps and heatwaves cause them to crack – which means more and more mains burst which can lead to outages and floods.

“You only have to look at Irish Water’s Twitter feed to observe this. The Shannon pipe would be a very expensive sticking plaster. Irish Water needs put in place a proper replacement plan and it needs to do it fast.”