Half of water lost by leakage in some areas, says report

Mon, Feb 25, 2013, 00:00

More than 50 per cent of water is lost through leakage in some local authority areas because of inadequately maintained infrastructure, according to a report to be published today.

Water leakage increases service costs and at least 1 per cent of the pipe network must be replaced every year, according to a review of Ireland’s infrastructure.

The 24-page report, The State of Ireland 2013, prepared by Engineers Ireland, looks at five areas of infrastructure – energy, waste, water and flooding, transport, and communications – and grades each. No sector received an A grade, with transport and water joint lowest at C. Communications at B+ gets the highest mark, while energy receives a B and waste a B-.

Five years

The report calls for “unaccounted for water” to be reduced to 30 per cent over the next five years.

Installation of domestic water meters in one million homes will start in July, and Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan said yesterday at least 25 per cent of the 1,600 jobs involved would be given to people from small local businesses, the unemployment register and school-leavers, graduates and apprentices.

The report’s authors sharply criticise the “unprecedented” reduction in capital funding for transport, cut by €314 million to €900 million this year, and €253 million by 2015. “It is unacceptable that there will be no new projects in the short-to-medium term.” They call for a restoration of investment to at least 2012 levels.

The report is concerned that 42 per cent of waste water treatment plants do not meet all water quality standards. It also expresses “significant concern” about the prevalence of E.coli in private group water schemes at levels almost eight times in excess of those in public water supplies.

More work also has to be done with local authorities to ensure planning permission is not granted in flood zones.

On waste management the report calls for local authorities to be reconfigured into three new regions. It highlights the 58 per cent of municipal waste disposal going to landfill, compared to rates of less than 5 per cent in the best performing EU countries.

Residual waste

It also calls for the State to develop the correct mix of hazardous and non-hazardous waste, and the development of biological treatment rather than exporting its residual waste.

The authors warn a rethink is necessary to develop waste and resource management modules in engineering courses to ensure there are sufficient appropriately-educated graduates.

The report will be launched by Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte to mark the start of Engineers’ Week, which celebrates engineering in Ireland.