ALMOST €6m in Government funding has been made available to fix leaky pipes in Dublin.
Environment Minister Phil Hogan has approved the grant to allow Dublin City Council award a €5.84m contract for the water mains rehabilitation programme.
The Department of the Environment denied the move was related to the impending introduction of domestic water charges, saying upgrades have been under way for many years.
The new contract is part of a "co-ordinated approach to arrest water leakage in the Dublin region", Mr Hogan said.
It will involve works in the Gardiner Street, Camden Street Upper, Clanwilliam Place, North Strand Road, Terenure Road North and Sean Moore Road.
The contract is being financed under the Environment Department's water services investment programme 2010 to 2013.
While it will eventually improve supply across Dublin, the project will cause traffic disruption and delays as streets are dug up.
Mr Hogan added: "Work is being carried out in a number of tranches and, with 135km of water mains already replaced from the target total of 250, the outcome should be improvement in the quality and reliability of the water supply, supporting commercial and industrial activity so crucial to economic recovery."
He said the upgrade of the city's Victorian pipe network is a "key priority" of his department.
Opponents of domestic water charges – expected next year – often cite leaks as a reason for not introducing the fees.
But a spokesman for the department said the latest grant is a "totally separate" issue.
"Dublin City Council has been particularly pro-active on this [upgrading the pipe network] for the Past number of years," he said. "A lot of the pipes are cast iron and very brittle," he added.
"The approval of the latest funding reflects the need to deliver a drinking water supply that is reliable and fully compliant with drinking water standards," Mr Hogan said.
It also reflects the priority being given to water conservation and to "addressing unsustainable levels of unaccounted for water in the distribution system", he said.
The Minister said he will be asking the council to get construction under way "as quickly as possible".
When work began on upgrading the pipe network in 1996, 42.5pc of the supply was lost mainly through leaks.
The council brought the figure down to 28pc by 2002 with a €50m investment.
But the leakage has crept back up to 29pc.