Irish Water considers ‘recycling sewage’ to bolster supplies

Effluent reuse is one of the measures under consideration in 25 year national plan

Irish Water has confirmed that it is considering the option of recycling sewage to bolster the water supply.

Irish Water has confirmed that it is considering the option of recycling sewage to bolster the water supply.

The measure is being considered as part of the utility’s plan to supply the State with water for the next 25 years.

The National Water Resources Plan (NWRP) will be developed against the background of rising population and climate change. It will be published next year.

Effluent reuse is common in many countries, but few pump it back into the water supply even though it is deemed safe to drink.


Instead, the water is used to boost the existing supply. Cities like London pump it back into the rivers where it is recycled again. Other areas pump it into reservoirs.

Effluent reuse is described in Irish Water’s strategic environmental assessment scoping report as “the process of converting wastewater from a wastewater treatment plant into water which can be reused for other purposes”.

It is one of the options being considered along with water transfers (taking water from one source to another), the process of desalination (converting seawater to drinking water) and groundwater aquifer storage recovery, which involves the storage of water underground for extraction during periods of increased demand.

‘Academic approach’

An Irish Water spokeswoman said effluent reuse is one of the options that the utility is legally obliged to consider as part of its scoping report.

“It’s an academic approach that we are approaching. Over the next few years everything will be considered. You rule stuff in before you rule stuff out. We’re years off looking at this option,” she said.

Irish Water will consider the availability of water by assessing water resources at a national level (including lakes, rivers and groundwater) and assessing the current and future water demand from homes, businesses, farms, and industry.

Areas where there is a potential for drought will also be examined.

This will include considering the impacts of climate change on Ireland’s water resources and the development of a drought plan recommending measures to be taken before and during drought events.

The NWRP will also develop a plan that sets out how to manage the waste material that is produced as a result of treating our drinking water.

The public have been asked to comment on the SEA scoping report. The consultation period is open until Friday, December 22nd. The NWRP will be published next year.

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy is a news reporter with The Irish Times