Last year Minister Gormley ordered a review of the water services investment programme, in order to address the ongoing issue of unaccounted for water and ensure value for money in the overall programme, which includes investment in water treatment and wastewater treatment plants.
“We are playing a huge game of catch-up with our water infrastructure, following decades of under-investment.” Mr Gormley said. “Exchequer investment in water infrastructure has increased to an average of €500 million per annum since 2007, and the €4.6 billion the State has spent in the last decade is paying dividends.
“However the difficulties experienced by thousands of householders across the country show clearly that there are still huge issues with our water infrastructure and consumption of water that need to be addressed.”
“Our approach to drinking water in Ireland has been unsustainable, and we must change that approach, from the investment and management of our network to how we as households value the resource that comes out of our tap.
“In particular we have a real problem with unaccounted for water with losses ranging from 16.8 per cent to 58.6 per cent depending on what part of the country you are in. This is completely unacceptable and must be urgently addressed.”
Over the last seven years €140 million was spent on water conservation. The new programme is a significant ramping up of this investment, with €300 million of water conservation contracts to commence over the coming three years.
The water conservation programme involves putting water management systems in place to monitor water use and losses throughout the supply networks, fixing leaks and replacing defective pipes where repair is no longer an economic option.
Most counties have completed or are close to completing the initial phases of this programme, and this provides the platform for intensive investment in mains rehabilitation which will be a key priority under the next water services investment programme for 2010 to 2012.
Specific details of the new programme will be outlined next month.
In addition the Minister will also bring proposals to Government in the coming weeks regarding the installation of water meters to 1.1 million homes connected to the public water mains supply across the country.
Following the phased installation of water meters, households will be charged for water services based on usage in line with the government commitment. .
The Department is currently examining the various options to ensure the delivery of the metering programme in the most cost effective manner, but it is expected that the roll-out of meters will begin next year.
“Water metering will be an absolutely essential element in ensuring that we get a water system that works, that is fair and is sustainable in the long-term.
“The metering system will allow for much better network management by local authorities, and it should also help consumers adjust their consumption patterns,” Minister Gormley said.
“International experience of reductions in water consumption would indicate that there can be significant water savings arising from the installation of meters. A recent report for the UK Government found average savings of 16 per cent per household accrued from the installation of meters.”