Dublin to get water from River Shannon by 2020
HOUSEHOLDERS in Dublin will start getting water from the River Shannon when they turn on their taps by 2020 under plans being paid for by water charges.
Without the new project to 'drain the Shannon', the capital has no further capacity for development of houses and business.
The project will be the biggest part of the Irish Water infrastructure plan which will be announced this week.
The move will be vigorously opposed by people living along the Shannon.
However, the plan now includes examining locations near the Shannon to treat the water to supply areas on the route between the river and Dublin.
Irish Water is now studying multiple points where water could be extracted from the country's largest river, to store in a reservoir in the midlands and pump to Dublin.
The timescale for the project, expected to cost well over €500m, is considerably advanced:
* Planning to take three years from 2014 to 2016.
* Design to take 18 months to two years once planning is approved up to the end 2017 or 2018.
* Construction taking two-and-a-half to three years in 2020 or 2022, if there are delays.
The shortest possible timeframe for the project would see it completed within six years, with the water flowing in the early 2020s. An independent report on the need for the project by economists and planners will be published in the second half of the year.
Funding for the initial stages of the project will be included in the €1.1bn water investment plan to be announced this week.
The water supply in Greater Dublin Region is described as "operating on a knife edge on a daily basis", with 96-99pc capacity used each day.
Government agencies at all levels warn of supply being restricted by further development of housing and businesses in the Greater Dublin Area.
The water shortages experienced by Dublin last year due to a problem at the main treatment plant have added to the urgency.
"The slightest impact and we are in serious difficulties as demonstrated a couple of months back with the difficulties at Leixlip treatment plant. The Vartry scheme which also serves Dublin is 19th century and has all sorts of problems," a senior source said.
The need for a new, long-term additional water source for the Dublin region was identified back in 1996.
Last week, Environment Minister Phil Hogan announced an extra €200m funding on water infrastructure in 2015 and 2016, taking the spend up to €1.1bn.
However, this still falls short of the need for massive investment in water services, which should be €600m a year.
Aside from big projects like the Shannon scheme, the funding will go towards reducing the 40pc worth of water lost through leaks, providing a clean supply to the 25,000 houses on boil water notices and updating the water schemes that are at risk of contamination, which it is estimated serve one million people.
But the Dublin project will be the biggest on the list.
Irish Water is currently carrying out surveys to draw up a range of potential new supply options, including taking water from the Shannon, groundwater and desalination.
The basic plan is to take Shannon water from the Lough Derg and Parteen Basin and storing it in a reservoir at the Garryhinch cutaway bog in the midlands.
The planning stage is expected to take three years, from 2014 to 2016. It will include an assessment of the project need, a review of all options, the selection of a preferred option, a full environmental impact assessment, an appropriate assessment and preparation of documentation to cover abstraction, treatment, transmission and storage, sites and all other statutory permits.
The three years will be taken up with preparation of the Environment Impact Statement, public consultations and applications to An Bord Pleanala.
The design and procurement stage will take 18 months to two years from the point of approval of planning.
The construction phase is expected to take up to three years, including commissioning the new supplies and connection to the existing water networks.