Sod turned on €29m replacement tunnel piping water to Dublin
Four kilometre drinking water tunnel was dug by men with picks and shovels in 1860s
The Vartry reservoir in Co Wicklow where a tunnel at Callow Hill is a “very vulnerable part” of the water supply system for the capital, and will now be replaced. File photograph: Cyril Byrne
Irish water has turned the sod on a €29 million project to replace an unstable tunnel in Co Wicklow which carries water to parts of Dublin.
The tunnel which is large enough to contain a small car dates form the 1860s and links the Vartry reservoir to 40 kilometres of trunk water mains which currently supplies about 15 per cent of drinking water for the greater Dublin area.
The Vartry scheme and the Callow Hill tunnel were originally advocated by physician and politician Sir John Gray, who persuaded Dublin Corporation to provide a safe and reliable water supply to the region. The scheme was subsequently credited with helping reduce outbreaks of water borne disease including cholera.
However the tunnel was declared unstable about a decade ago and Irish Water’s proposal to replace it at a cost of €29 million is part of a €200 million scheme to upgrade the Vartry reservoir near Roundwood, and the Stillorgan reservoir in south county Dublin.
Irish Water said the new pipeline will secure water supplies for 200,000 people.
The utility said “the tunnel is now in a poor state of repair”.
The construction contract was awarded to Roadbridge.
Speaking at the sod turning in Co Wicklow on Monday Minister of State Andrew Doyle said the significance of the vision that built the Vartry scheme 150 years ago was reflected in its ongoing importance to the greater Dublin area.
Jerry Grant, managing director of Irish Water said when completed, the upgrades would ensure that water standards were complied with and the scheme would be removed from the EPA’s remedial action list.