Public hearing on €200m Vartry reservoir upgrade plans

150-year-old water treatment plant supplies more than 200,000 in Wicklow and Dublin

The Vartry water treatment plant at Roundwood, Co Wicklow. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

An Bord Pleanála has decided to hold a public hearing on Irish Water's plans for a €200 million upgrade of the Vartry reservoir, which supplies more than 200,000 in north Wicklow and south Dublin.

The the owners of Mount Usher Gardens in Ashford, the Avoca café chain and State agency Inland Fisheries Ireland, are among those who appealed to the board against Wicklow County Council's decision to grant permission for the redevelopment of the 150-year-old water treatment plant.

The Vartry water scheme has had no significant upgrade since it was built in the 1860s, and has been identified by the Environmental Protection Agency as at risk of failure to meet drinking water standards.

Irish Water said the construction of a new treatment plant, along with other upgrades, would secure the water supply, and ensure the Vartry scheme met all drinking water standards.


The Environmental Protection Agency also has said it was anxious the upgrade go ahead, in part because of chemicals in the water which have been linked to cancer.

However, objectors said Irish Water’s plans would reduce flow in the river from 15 million to 5 million litres of water a day, which could result in it drying up at times of low rainfall.

Konrad Jay, whose family owns Mount Usher Gardens, said the survival of the gardens, planted in the 1880s with varieties of rare rhododendrons, azaleas, and camellias, was entirely dependent on the Vartry which flows through them.

Donald Pratt of Avoca, which operates the café at Mount Usher, said if Irish Water reduced the flow of water into the Vartry "the river will essentially die". This would result in a drop in visitor numbers to the gardens , which Avoca's parent company, US-based Aramark, would be unlikely to tolerate.

Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) said the river was already susceptible to very low flows during times of reduced rainfall, and it was concerned about the survival of salmon and other fish populations.

“While IFI is conscious of the ever-increasing demand for water supply in the Eastern River Basin District, it is not sustainable to continue to abstract water from the river Vartry during times of low flow when such action will result in significant adverse impact on the ecology of the river.”

The hearing will take place from June 12th-14th in the Glenview Hotel, Glen of the Downs, Co Wicklow.

Olivia Kelly

Olivia Kelly

Olivia Kelly is Dublin Editor of The Irish Times