Over half of local authorities' water supplies disappear


MORE THAN half of all water supplied by seven local authorities went missing or was unaccounted for, the latest annual benchmark on Ireland’s county and city councils has found.

The findings of the annual report on service indicators for 2008 across the 34 local authorities showed that water leaks, unauthorised usage and metering errors are major problems for county and city councils.

The highest statistics were recorded in Roscommon where 58.6 per cent of water was unaccounted for. Kilkenny (56.8 per cent), South Tipperary (55.4 per cent) and Cork city (52.9 per cent) also recorded very high figures for water loss – as did both city and county councils in Galway and North Tipperary.

By comparison, South Dublin (20 per cent) and Kildare (26 per cent) had the lowest volume of water unaccounted for.

The category of unaccounted for water appears for the first time in this, the fifth report. Annual service indicators were introduced in 2004 to measure the performance of Ireland’s local authorities across all the services they provide, including waste, library, fire, environmental, housing, planning and corporate.

Responding to the report yesterday, Minister for the Environment John Gormley said, taken as a whole, the report showed local authorities were making steady progress.

He was highly critical, however, of the figures that showed high volumes of drinking water going to waste. He warned he would hold back funding for water services from councils that failed to tackle the problem.

“Clearly there are problems when it comes to water leakage. The amount of water going missing is not acceptable. We have seen figures of over 50 per cent in many counties.

“I have made it clear that I won’t give money to local authorities where this is not being addressed,” he said.

Mr Gormley continued: “That is a waste of money, not just a waste of water. The cost of treated water is €1 billion each year.”

The report, which runs to 175 pages, compares how local authorities perform across 67 headings. The authors warn that it is not always meaningful to compare the results across local authorities because of key differences in geography, demographics, population and comparative wealth.

Absenteeism, both certified and uncertified, averaged 4.64 per cent of all working time for the 34 councils. The highest figures were in Sligo, at 7 per cent. In Kerry absenteeism was over 6 per cent. The council notes that this was due to more rigorous recording and a rise in long-term absenteeism.

The highest figures for uncertified sick leave were in Cork City Council, Dublin City Council and in Dún Laoghaire Rathdown.

Under the waste heading there were wide variances. In most counties over 95 per cent of households have a segregated waste collection. But in Donegal it is only available for 57 per cent.

Carlow remains the county with the lowest volume of waste sent for recycling at 12.7 per cent. Sligo, Donegal and Cavan are all 17 per cent or under. The best performing authorities are Longford (55 per cent) and Galway city (49 per cent).

In the litter pollution indices, Limerick county has 3.7 per cent, and Waterford city has 3 per cent of the overall region grossly polluted with litter.

Under the significantly polluted with litter category, Kildare is easily the highest, with 30 per cent recorded.