Shannon to Dublin pipeline project criticised further

The Shannon to Dublin water pipeline project has come in for further criticism this morning, as Irish Water published a report summarising feedback from the latest consultation.

The project aims to deliver a secure, reliable and sustainable long-term water supply that will be “critical to support the eastern and midlands region’s social and economic growth from 2025”, according to Irish Water.

It will be the first major comprehensive upgrade to Ireland’s new water source infrastructure in the region in over 60 years, it added.

What the project involves

The project will involve the abstraction of water from the lower River Shannon at Parteen Basin in Co. Tipperary, with water treatment nearby at Birdhill.

Treated water would then be piped 170km to a termination point reservoir at Peamount in Co. Dublin; this would then connect into the greater Dublin network.

Communities in north Tipperary, Offaly, Laois, Westmeath, Kildare, Meath and Wicklow will also benefit from the project with possible future off-shoots from the pipe that will enable the development of extra homes and businesses and increase the potential for inward investment, Irish Water explained.

Apart from the Greater Dublin Area (GDA), the most urgent areas with impending water deficits in the region are the Mullingar supply area of Co. Westmeath and the rapidly expanding area of east Meath bordering the GDA, it added.

Increase in demand

A statement from Irish Water said: “The review of the project, its alignment with the National Planning Framework and analysis of all of the feedback has confirmed definitively that existing water supply sources do not have the capacity or resilience to meet future requirements of homes and businesses in Dublin and the midlands.

“Forecast population and economic growth will generate a demand for an additional 330 million litres of water per day by 2050 to give both the GDA and the midlands regions the resilience and reliability of service that is essential to inspire public confidence and continue to attract economic opportunity.”

‘Fixing leaks alone’ not the solution

Meanwhile, the future water needs of Dublin and the midlands cannot be met by fixing leaks alone, Sean Laffey – the head of asset management in Irish Water – has said.

Leakage in the GDA network is at 36% and there are 9,000km of water pipes with over 600,000 connections, he claimed.

Commenting on the matter, he said: “Irish Water is rolling out a comprehensive Leakage Reduction Programme, which combines active leak detection with customer side monitoring supported by targeted mains replacement of the leakiest pipes based on burst frequency.

“This industry standard approach is the most technically and economically achievable way of managing network leakage and will deliver major savings through a number of investment cycles.

However, this cannot keep pace with growth needs. This is before allowing for extreme weather events such as the drought that affected the midlands last summer or the multiple bursts and water shortages that followed Storm Emma.

“Irish Water is now satisfied beyond doubt that the preferred Parteen Basin option is the correct scheme and its delivery is critical for the future.

“The Water Supply Project is a major priority for Irish Water as we move towards the submission of a planning application in 2019,” he said.

‘A misleading story’

However, the various bodies that are challenging the proposed project have been critical of the report published by Irish Water.

The founder of Kennedy Analysis, Emma Kennedy, is set to appear before the Joint Committee on Housing, Planning and Local Government alongside Irish Water in relation the Shannon project tomorrow (Wednesday, April 25).

Speaking ahead of that meeting, Kennedy said: “That meeting should have been an opportunity for the Government to hear a balanced and informed critique of whether the Shannon project is an appropriate way to spend a huge amount of taxpayers’ money.

It is disappointing – but not surprising – that Irish Water has sought to undermine that opportunity with the publication of a report that has been 18 months in production.

“Irish Water continues to present a misleading story when it comes to Dublin’s leaks and this report will do nothing to change that. Its press release cites a figure for leakage of 36%; but that figure does not include a single drop of customer side leakage – which brings Dublin’s total leakage to around 57%.

“Irish Water, in its statement, talks about a public consultation; we cannot imagine that those it consulted with were told that over half of the water taken from the River Shannon and expensively treated would be wasted.

“These are good-minded people who if presented with the real facts would not stand for the sheer wastage of this,” she said.

Water outages

Meanwhile, Kennedy claims that the proposed project would do nothing to change the unreliability of supply to Dublin householders and businesses.

Because of the state of Dublin’s pipes, they will continue to be condemned to water outages like they experienced during Storm Emma recently, she added.

Irish Water plans to replace just 1% of Dublin’s pipes per annum; meaning some of its pipes – which are up to 140 years old – will not be touched for another 100 years.

“Somehow, Irish Water claims its leakage targets are ambitious – but this is not by international standards. For example, Lisbon reduced leakage by 64% in eight years, London by 30% in six years and Reggio Emilia [Italy] by 50% in eight years.”

Concluding, Kennedy argued that this 1% replacement target per annum is not viable for Dublin.

“Dublin’s water mains do not need maintenance: they need a major overhaul and this will soon become unavoidable regardless of whether or not the Shannon project proceeds.

“Ultimately, why should the taxpayer pay twice?

“Irish Water says that it lacks the funds to replace Dublin’s pipes; it says replacing them all would cost €3-4 billion – yet, it proposes to spend a very significant proportion of that figure on a pipeline that would not even fix Dublin’s problems,” she said.