BORD na Mona is ready to apply for planning permission for a controversial new reservoir in the midlands that will provide Dublin with water.
The reservoir, at a 1,200 acre bog site near Portarlington in Co Laois, will take water from the Shannon for use in Dublin and the midlands.
The plan has generated criticism from environmental campaigners who say it will lower water levels in the surrounding areas and damage wildlife.
Bord na Mona chief executive Gabriel D'Arcy said yesterday that water would be pumped from the Shannon at Lough Derg to the new reservoir at Portarlington, where it would be stored for use in the midlands and in the east of the country.
Seeking to allay concerns, he said the water would only be taken from the Shannon during the wetter winter months, when the river often suffers flooding.
He estimated the reservoir could hold enough water to meet the needs of households in the eastern region for a period of three months and could help address water shortages in the capital.
Water supplies to the Dublin region have come under scrutiny in recent times. An algae infestation at a treatment plant in Roundwood, Co Wicklow, as well as damage to pipes following the cold winter, resulted in prolonged shortages in Dublin.
Mr D'Arcy said most of the required environmental studies on the site, which is a former bog owned by Bord na Mona, had already been completed.
He denied that it would negatively effect the environment and said it would encourage water-dependent industries like the pharmaceutical sector to locate in the midlands.
The reservoir has been opposed by local groups, chiefly the River Shannon Protection Alliance. The organisation is concerned that water levels on Lough Derg will be threatened, damaging the local ecosystem.
Water was originally planned to be pumped from Lough Ree, but was moved further south as it was found to be vulnerable to low water levels.
Mr D'Arcy said the proposed new reservoir was being considered by the Government. However, he said the semi-state wanted to move on the ambitious project as soon as possible and said it was ready to lodge a planning application.
If planning permission is granted, construction should take three years. It will be up and running by 2020 at the very latest and will cost an estimated €470m to build.
The development, at the cutaway Garryhinch bog near Portarlington, will be the first new Irish reservoir to be built in 60 years.
It will be one of the biggest infrastructural projects ever undertaken by the State and create up to 1,000 construction jobs. Another 100 people will be needed to operate and maintain the facility once it is completed.