Consultation opens on Irish Water plans to supply 2.5m people

Proposal to pump water from river Shannon part of ‘strategic transformation’ for east

 The Shannon pipeline would take water from the lower river Shannon at the Parteen Basin in Co Tipperary, with water treatment at the nearby village of Birdhill. Photograph: Alan Betson

The Shannon pipeline would take water from the lower river Shannon at the Parteen Basin in Co Tipperary, with water treatment at the nearby village of Birdhill. Photograph: Alan Betson

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Public consultation on a plan to transform the water supply for more than half the State’s population, including piping water from the Shannon to the east coast, begins today.

The three-month consultation will be on how Irish Water intends to supply homes and businesses in its eastern and midlands region.

The draft Regional Water Resources Plan: Eastern and Midlands is the largest of four such plans being drawn up by Irish Water. It covers an area from Arklow, in Co Wicklow, to Ennis in Co Clare, and from Newcastle West in Co Limerick to Clogherhead in Co Louth, taking in 134 separate water supplies and catering for 2.5 million people.

Irish Water says the plan, when delivered, will provide “nothing less than a strategic transformation” to a more resilient and sustainable interconnected supply, for 60 per cent of the population of the State.

The aim of the plan is to support growth and economic development across the region and reduce leakage from an existing level of 38 per cent, to 22 per cent.

Treatment plants in the region serve 76,000 businesses and while the plan identifies progress in leakage reductions and capital investment, it says moving away from a fragmented supply with large variations in levels of service, to an interconnected supply with better outcomes, is essential for all water users.

The water authority said the plan would result in benefits of in terms of quality and quantity which would result in less frequent interruptions to supply and fewer boil water notices.

Angela Ryan, water resource strategy specialist for Irish Water, said the draft plan would allow Irish Water for the first time to review water supply needs collectively across the entire eastern and midlands region, covering a broad spectrum of risk including quality, quantity, reliability and sustainability.

She said it would assist growth and economic development; improve interconnectivity between supplies, and add “new sustainable water sources that are adaptable to climate change such as the New Shannon Source”.

Costings for the 25-year plan have not been released but it is known that the cost of establishing a source in the Shannon with a major pipeline to deliver water to the east coast, is likely to exceed an estimated €1.3 billion, which was cited in the National Development Plan.

The Water Supply Project Eastern and Midlands Region, more commonly known as the Shannon pipeline, would take water from the lower river Shannon at the Parteen Basin in Co Tipperary, with water treatment at the nearby village of Birdhill. The Shannon borders 11 counties in the Republic and is the State’s largest river catchment.

Public webinars will be facilitated in January and February 2022. These webinars will provide information on the draft plan and allow opportunities to pose questions to inform submissions.

This will be followed by consultations on regional water resources plans for the northwest; the southwest and the southeast.

The 13-week public consultation will run from the December 14th to March 14th, 2022. Further information at water.ie.