Provision of Future Water Services in Ireland

Provision of Future Water Services in Ireland

04 April 2016 at 10:01

Joint Statement by Engineers Ireland and The Irish Academy of Engineering re. the Provision of Future Water Services in Ireland 

Engineers Ireland and the Irish Academy of Engineering strongly support the principle of a single national utility overseeing Ireland's water infrastructure.  In our view it would be a retrograde step for public health, for improving the water and waste water systems’ effectiveness and efficiency to move from a single national utility model.

Planning the scale of upgrades required by our water systems is a complex process. It is our informed opinion that unlike the previous water systems, a single national utility is the most effective approach for prioritising remedial actions, administering the large capital programmes, arranging funding, undertaking the detailed planning process for the systems upgrades, and delivering the projected improvements in efficiency. 

A functioning single national utility is also the best counter for mitigating EU fines for breaches of water quality standards stipulated in the EU Water Framework Directive.

While the hard decision may be to stick with a single national utility model, the public will not thank the political or engineering professions if we do not have the courage to adopt the structure that is most likely to deliver the highest standards of public health and environmentally responsible water systems. 

Under-investment in water and waste systems by successive governments has left a legacy we cannot be proud of as citizens of a modern and relatively rich state. The scale of the challenge is enormous. Our members in industry report to us that 50% of all drinking water is lost through leaks and drinking water supplying over 700,000 people every day is at risk of contamination.  Raw sewage is pumped into Ireland’s natural waterways at locations around the country due to inadequacies in the existing system. Problems such as broken pipes, damaged sewers, lead contamination and boil water notices continue to pervade our water infrastructure.

Engineers Ireland and the Irish Academy of Engineering maintain that a failure to urgently address these issues has the potential to damage our economic growth, competitiveness, population well-being and, in the long-run, the living environment.  The creation of a world class water system will be expensive and the people of Ireland deserve the highest standard of management and delivery, best provided by a single national utility.