Shannon pipeline cost ‘likely to exceed’ €1.3bn

The 170km pipeline will carry water from the lower river Shannon to south Dublin

The Shannon pipeline will abstract 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 Irish Times

The Shannon pipeline will abstract 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 Irish Times

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The cost of a major pipeline project aimed at increasing water supply to the Greater Dublin Area is “likely to exceed” the estimated €1.3 billion cited in the National Development Plan (NDP), Irish Water has said.

The Water Supply Project Eastern and Midlands Region, more commonly known as the Shannon pipeline, will abstract water from the lower river Shannon at the Parteen Basin in Co Tipperary, with water treatment at the nearby village of Birdhill.

The treated water would then be piped 170km to a termination point reservoir at Peamount in south Co Dublin. Treated water would also be available for connection to midlands communities along the route.

In a meeting between Ervia and the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government on December 4th, 2019, representatives from Irish Water said due to “upward pressure on costs” the project is “likely to exceed indicative NDP estimate of €1.3 billion”.

The presentation from the meeting, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, said a revised estimate would be available in the first quarter of this year. However, Irish Water did not detail the new estimated cost of the project when asked by The Irish Times.

A spokeswoman for Irish Water said the project was still in the early planning stages and “detailed costs for this project will be made available on completion of the tender process”.

The utility added that the increase in costs has arisen due to “significant progress” being made, which has “greatly improved the understanding of the project risks and issues and informed the cost estimation process”.

The timeline for the project states that construction will be carried out over a four-year period, commencing in 2023/2024, subject to “successful and timely outcomes to the associated planning and abstraction applications”.

However, the statutory consultations of the plan have been delayed due to restrictions imposed by Covid-19, the spokeswoman added.

The issue of the country’s water supply has been highlighted in recent times, with Irish Water implementing a water conservation order – or hosepipe ban – last month as a result of “unseasonably dry” weather in May.

In its meeting with the department last December, the utility said the pipeline project was “needed to address capacity issues in the region to ensure that the supply is fit for purpose in the event of extreme weather such as droughts and storms and to address climate change”.

River Liffey

About 85 per cent of Dublin’s water supply comes from the river Liffey which is the “maximum sustainable abstraction” and “at risk from climate change”, Irish Water said. The utility added that fixing leaks alone is “not enough to meet future demand and resilience”.

The project has faced public opposition from two campaign groups – Fight the Pipe and the River Shannon Protection Alliance – who say that the project will result in the “destruction of 2,000 acres” of farmland, and branded it as “simply wrong”.

The project has been in development since the mid-1990s, originally under Dublin City Council, and under Irish Water Management since 2014. It is the first comprehensive upgrade of Ireland’s water infrastructure in more than 60 years.