Responding to Minister Phil Hogan’s announcement today that meters will begin to be installed next year, Fianna Fail Dublin City Councillor Paul McAuliffe said “The Minister’s proposal and the programme for government would appear to be heavily based on the installation of water meters alone as a solution to our water supply crisis. Even in the UK, the best water companies have, after 25 years only metered 65% of their customers. It is obvious that we cannot wait that long to invest in the network. Metering alone will not solve the problem, we need a comprehensive funding model which includes government investment and a domestic charge for excessive use. Local charges linked to usage will help reduce waste but we have to consider the overall tax burden which families are currently paying. The central taxation system takes into account different circumstance in a way that a flat domestic charge would not. I would also fear that any amount raised by a local authority in water charges will see a corresponding reduction in the block grant from government.”
“I am also concerned that establishing a large scale quango called water Ireland may actually add to the problem with valuable funding being spent on administration, replicating the work already carried out by local authority workers. Instead we need a national funding agency similar to the National Roads Authority which channels funding in a strategic way to improve water infrastructure across the country.
According to a report released to Cllr McAuliffe by Dublin City Council, almost 1 billion euro of capital spending will be required over the next ten years and at present; the local authority has no sustainable way of funding this investment.
Key points of report issued to Cllr McAuliffe:
● €1 billion needed to keep water supply flowing
● Decision on Shannon water needed before 2013
● After 25 years in UK only 65% of homes have been metered
● A home with leaks could be wasting the consumption of up to 90 homes
The report identifies a number of parallel investments which are required including a major investment to reduce leaks costing €400m and a new water source from the Shannon costing between €4-500m. The report also raises the possibility that there are significant leaks on the householders’ side of the network with one pilot project of 220 houses finding 3 houses had leaks equivalent to 90, 60 and 30 houses respectively, i.e. 3 houses were consuming as much as the other 220 houses due to customer side leaks.
“During the working week the Dublin city is using 30 million litres a day more than it is producing and storage supplies are barely catching up at the weekends. The system is operating on a knife edge and as we have seen, it doesn’t take much to of a kick to knock it over. “ said Cllr McAuliffe.
Question to City Manager City Council Meeting 09/05/2011
Q82. COUNCILLOR PAUL MCAULIFFE
Can the Manager outline the investment required in the coming years to the water treatment and distribution system in the Dublin Region. Can he identify the projects which he believes are a priority, the progress made on reducing leaks and detail correspondence with government on this issue.
CITY MANAGER’S REPLY:
The schemes which Dublin City Council consider essential to provide continuity of supply are listed in the assessment of needs submitted every 3 years to Central Government. Only a limited subset of schemes is then listed for funding through the three year DEHLG Water Services Investment Programme (Current Programme 2010-2012).
The overall water strategy is set out in summary in the Dublin City water Services Strategic Plan 2010 and was incorporated into the 2011-2017 City Development Plan. The Strategy for the Dublin Region involves parallel investment in water storage and treatment, leakage reduction, network rehabilitation and new source development and demand management. Since 1996 this Regional strategy is being implemented to address decades of underinvestment. The water supply situation in the Dublin Region is very complex and is not amenable to quick fix or single approach solutions. Current abstractions from the Liffey and Vartry rivers, which supply over 95% of Dublin’s raw water, are close to their sustainable limits and cannot meet future needs. Indeed, climate change projections suggest that future rainfall in the region could reduce significantly with consequences for existing reservoirs.
As regards leakage levels, the Dublin Region Water Conservation project reduced leakage from 42.5% to 28% and confirmed that reductions below this would require replacement of significant portions of our ancient Victorian network. Britain has a very similar water distribution network to ours and it has taken high levels of sustained investment for over 25 years to approach leakage levels of 20% there. In addition, Ireland generally (incl. the Dublin Region) has significant leakage on the customer side of the property boundary which will take many years to bring under control to best practice standards. This was confirmed in a recent metering project where in a sample of 220 houses, 3 houses had leaks equivalent to 90, 60 and 30 houses respectively, i.e. 3 houses were consuming as much as the other 220 houses due to customer side leaks. Investment in replacing the Victorian mains has commenced through the Dublin Region Watermain Rehabilitation Project. Over 60 Km. of mains have already been replaced and an additional 200 Km. will be replaced over the next 2 years. A minimum investment of €40m per year for a 10 year continuous programme with no breaks while waiting for approvals from Government would ensure that the City reaches the sustainable limit of leakage. The teams and contracts are in place now and work is underway in 2011.
Water production facilities in the region (Dublin/Wicklow/Kildare) can produce a sustainable output of 520 million litres of water per day. However demand is running at 550 million litres per day (most EU Cities have 15-20% spare capacity on any day). The major extension to Ballymore Eustace is at construction and when the planned Leixlip extension by Fingal is completed, the region will have no further supplies until a new major source is developed.
In planning for the long-term (2020-2050) future water supply needs of the Dublin & Mid East Regions, the scheme (at the planning stage) has been approved at Strategic Environmental Assessment by the City Council. The scheme envisages for usage of Shannon Water, via intermediate raw water cutaway bog storage at a new midlands Water based Eco park. Water from the Shannon will fill the reservoir at times when the Shannon is in flood and the storage will be used to balance flows outside of this period. This is the single most important element in an overall approach which envisages significant additional investments (€400m) to reduce leakage to best practice levels of 20% (a massive challenge) by 2020, combined with the implementation of full domestic metering and charging to reduce personal consumption and domestic household leakage. It should be particularly noted that in the UK the best water companies have after 25 years only metered 65% of their customers (but 100% pay directly for water services).
Only by combining all of these measures can we hope to have a ‘first world’ water supply in the future. In planning for the future, it is vital that we continue investment in replacing old assets and recognise the value of a continuous water supply. For Dublin as an International City Region and the Midlands to have good capacity of quality water available would make Ireland one of the most attractive locations anywhere in the world for important industries and support job creation. It is a project that benefits not just Dublin but the national economy and is a project of national importance.