Irish Water leaks are ‘unacceptable’, says Water Advisory Body

Utility facing cost overruns and inefficiencies in repair work, State oversight body finds

Vartry Reservoir water treatment works in Co Wicklow.  Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Vartry Reservoir water treatment works in Co Wicklow. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

 

The rate that water leaks from Irish Water’s network is “unacceptable” by any measure, according to the first report from the State’s Water Advisory Body.

The body which was set up last year to oversee the work of Irish Water also found the utility is facing significant cost overruns and not working fast enough to replace aged water mains.

It was also not fixing deficient waste water treatment facilities in an efficient or timely manner, the report found.

The Water Advisory Body concluded: “overall compliance for urban waste water treatment is very low”.

In terms of costs the report noted:

  • an increase of €53 million in the forecast cost of the upgrade of the Ringsend Waste Water Treatment plant, from €363 million to €416 million;
  • the projected cost of the plan to extract water from the Shannon has increased by some €287 million with the final cost, now estimated at €1,202 million, compared to €915 million in Irish Water’s 2016 investment strategy;
  • the Cork Lower Harbour Project is now forecast to rise from €118 million in 2016, to €131 million in 2019;
  • the Greater Dublin Drainage Project costs are now forecast to fall from €520 million to €486 million;
  • costs for the the Vartry Regional Water Supply Scheme – to provide a new treatment plant, upgrade the Vartry reservoir and replace the Vartry tunnel – set to be completed 2021, are forecast to fall from €154 million to €129 million.

Total forecast spend across the five projects is now €2,364 million, compared with €2,070 million under the 2016 Investment Plan.

First fix scheme

The report from the Water Advisory Body said compliance with the microbiological standards in drinking water is high.

It also found that Irish Water had an action plan in place to fix water supplies which were listed on the Remedial Action List.

The report also noted the reducing numbers of consumers on “boil water” notices, and increasing levels of customer satisfaction coupled with increasing perception that the utility was easy to contact.

The first of the body’s reports, which are to be published quarterly, also found there had been a significant drop off in the number of leak repairs completed under First Fix Scheme from mid-2016.

Under the first fix scheme, Irish Water undertakes to carry out and pay for the first fix in pipe work on a homeowner’s property, which is the legal responsibility of the homeowner.

The report said while Irish Water’s mains replacement rate of 0.33 per cent was “ within a range comparable with other similar entities”, it agreed with the Commission for Regulation of Utilities’ view that Irish Water’s replacement rate “will need to be higher given Irish Water’s infrastructure is likely to be older and in worse condition on average”.

The report also accepted the Environmental Protection Agency’s view that Ireland is not addressing the deficiencies in its waste water treatment infrastructure at a fast enough pace.

While the water body noted the forecast costs of five major schemes, it said detailed examination of these projects was a matter for the regulator, the Commission for Regulation of Utilities.