Friday 18 January 2019

Water 'lost' hits 761m litres per day despite investment

‘Unaccounted for water’ is on the rise, Irish Water admits. Stock Image
‘Unaccounted for water’ is on the rise, Irish Water admits. Stock Image
Paul Melia

Paul Melia

The amount of "unaccounted-for water" has increased year on year despite Irish Water's massive investment programme.

The water regulator also says that some capital projects, including upgrades to plants, have been delayed and that the utility plans to spend more on capital projects than previously thought.

The 'Irish Water Capital Investments Monitoring Report' for the first half of 2017 says the company has made good progress on eliminating the number of households on long-term boil-water notice to just five people from more than 23,000 at the end of 2014, and upgrading plants at risk of failure. However, it points to delays in delivering the capital programme.

"Irish Water has communicated to the CRU [the Commission for Regulation of Utilities Water and Energy] that it has faced challenges in delivering projects within the expenditure and timelines outlined in the investment plan submitted in August 2016," the report said.

"Irish Water has re-prioritised the list of projects it has included in the investment plan; 81... were due to be completed in 2017 to 2018; this has been reduced to 32; 82 of these projects were forecast to be delivered in the period to 2022 and beyond. This has increased to 139."

Among the delayed projects are an upgrade to the Ringsend wastewater treatment plant in Dublin, and a new supply for Dublin and the midlands from the River Shannon which is expected to be delivered in 2025 instead of 2024. The CRU added that like other "regulated utilities" including ESB Networks and Gas Networks Ireland, Irish Water was given "appropriate flexibility" to manage its investment plan which could include re-prioritising projects.

It also emerged that what Irish Water refers to as "unaccounted-for water" - which includes leaks - is on the rise.

The report found that some 761 million litres a day was lost or leaked in the first half of 2017 compared with 732 million litres in 2016.

In a statement, Irish Water said leakage rates were being captured more accurately due to better information systems, and they would fall for the second half of 2017.

It added that the capital investment plan contained more than 360 individual projects, along with 150 programmes.

In August 2016, when the programme was submitted for approval, around half of the projects were at a "conceptual design stage" with an indicative date.

"Irish Water is forecasting we will achieve the vast majority of our targets by 2021. Those which are at risk primarily relate to wastewater treatment where historic compliance issues remain. These are at risk as they involve significant engineering challenges together with complex statutory processes not directly within Irish Water's control," it said.

The CRU says Irish Water plans to spend a total of €1.208bn between 2017 and 2018, more than the €1.047bn expected. Between 2017 and 2021, a spend of €3.588bn was expected, but Irish Water has increased this to €3.76bn.

The company said the spend was "necessary and efficient" and would be subject to approval by the regulator.

Irish Independent

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