Thursday 21 September 2017

Water network to get €200m upgrade over next two years

Paul Melia Environment Correspondent

THE Government is expected to sanction additional spending of €200m in the water network over the next two years following today's cabinet meeting.

The Irish Independent has learned that the extra money will be used to upgrade 40 wastewater treatment plants and prioritise capital projects in Dublin and Cork.

The move will result in a 33pc increase in planned spending on drinking water and wastewater treatment plants, as well as tackling high leakage rates across the network. Some €480m is already committed for 2014 and 2015, and the extra spend is expected to be sourced from the Department of Finance.

The move comes because at least €600m a year is needed across the water network every year until at least 2030 to bring our system up to international standards.

Plans for the additional spending will be brought to the Government by Environment Minister Phil Hogan.

It is among a number of water-related issues due to be discussed, with others including the so-called "first-fix free" policy – where Irish Water will repair leaks on individual properties.

As many as 17 "high priority" projects, including ones in Dublin and Cork, will be earmarked for the additional spend, sources said.

They will include at least 40 wastewater treatment plants, which treat effluent to the required standards.

Other projects include works in areas where local populations have been forced to boil water before consumption.

The final decision on which projects will go ahead will be made by Irish Water.

"Irish Water will choose the projects," one source said. "This additional money will give us about 17 high-priority water projects, including ones in Dublin and Cork.

"They will focus on capacity and public health issues. It may not be a new supply but upgrading or expanding plants. If we weren't getting the extra capital it's likely these wouldn't go ahead."

Some 23,500 people are on boil water notices. In addition, around 15pc of all drinking water supplies are on a remedial action list, meaning they require urgent upgrades. There is also the problem of high leakage rates to be addressed, with 40pc of all treated water "unaccounted" for, meaning it never reaches the taps.

Irish Independent

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