Saturday 16 November 2019

Irish Water's priority is a safe supply - for that we need to invest €2.3bn

John Tierney, Managing Director of Irish Water
John Tierney, Managing Director of Irish Water

John Tierney

Unsafe drinking water has no place in modern Ireland, yet the 2013 EPA Drinking Water Report points to a range of serious failures, which means communities in parts of Ireland cannot rely on their public water services.

For decades we have under-invested and today's report shows the results of that. It means there are now people in Ireland who cannot drink their water because it will make them ill.

They cannot prepare food, brush their teeth or do other things that the rest of us, with a safe supply, take for granted. They have to be careful - and careful again.

Irish Water was set up last year to begin a major national project of dealing with current and future problems, and the EPA Report sets out what needs to be done.

The single-biggest priority we have in Irish Water is to provide safe, clean drinking water for everyone connected to our services. We want to become an organisation trusted by people to deliver every time they turn on their tap.

We have already made some progress.

For example, on January 1, last year, there were 17,000 people in Roscommon on a boil water notice. By April this year, all of these notices - some of which would have been in place for six years or more - will be lifted.

The Remedial Action List, or a list of all schemes at risk of failure, has been reduced by Irish Water from 140 to 121, which means the supply to almost 100,000 people is now no longer at risk of failing to meet basic needs.

We invested over €340m improving water and waste-water services last year, and will increase that investment to €410m in 2015. We are also bringing in new ways of operating treatment plants to make the existing plants perform better for longer - saving money and at the same time improving services.

The EPA has concluded that further drinking water restrictions are likely unless the system improves. It is right. Of our 856 water treatment plants, 530 need upgrading. While the vast majority of people currently enjoy a safe supply of water, it is far from reliable, with the supply to almost one million people at risk of failure.

We need to invest over €2.3bn in the next six to seven years in treatment and network upgrades to address quality and capacity issues.

I understand many of the criticisms of how the Irish Water project has started. But the central project - that of giving Ireland world-class water services - is of national importance and one which we are determined to deliver on.

Irish Independent

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