Half of water lost through leaky pipes despite €500m upgrades
ALMOST half of all water produced by local authorities goes missing and never makes it to the tap, the Irish Independent has learnt.
Despite investment of almost €500m a year in new pipes and treatment plants, much of the water is seeping into the ground because of leaks in the system.
A major report into services provided by local authorities shows 44.5pc of all water produced is "unaccounted for" because of leaks, unauthorised usage and metering errors.
The scale of the leaks will infuriate the tens of thousands of home owners who had their water turned off to preserve supplies during the recent big freeze.
Making water safe and clean to drink costs the State €1bn a year, but waste across the system is rampant.
The worst offender is Limerick City, where 58.5pc of all water is lost, and the best is South Dublin where just 21.45pc goes missing.
The 171-page report -- seen by the Irish Independent -- is produced by the Local Government Management Services Board.
It measures the performance of local authorities across all the services they provide, including waste, fire, environmental, housing, planning and water.
The report warns collection of commercial rates, water charges and housing rents is so low it has left a black hole in council finances which is likely to result in services being cut.
The collection rates for commercial water charges were 66pc in 2006 and fell to 53.2pc in 2009.
Commercial rates account for 29pc of total local authority funding, and an average of 84pc of amounts owed are collected. Councils are owed a total of €211.5m.
The report shows that three in every 10 businesses are not paying rates in four local authorities -- Limerick city, Galway city, Donegal and Louth.
The report also highlights inefficiencies across councils and shows that hundreds of houses are lying idle despite being available for rent.
Some 130,000 people are on housing waiting lists, and 3,800 homes are empty.
Inspection rates of private accommodation also vary widely across the country and just a fraction of new buildings are being inspected.
The authors said that staff numbers have been reduced by 5,000 since 2008, and that there is no "perfect set" of measures to assess performance.
Some positives are highlighted. The number of playgrounds has increased, libraries are open an average of 37 hours a week and had 14.5 million visits in 2009 and 41pc of all household waste is recycled.
One in three motor tax applications are completed online and response time by fire brigades has improved.
The Department of the Environment said there were improvements in service delivery, and that city and county managers had committed to improving collection rates.