Almost half the water supply around the State is lost through leaks in the water network, Irish Water has said.
The semi-State today publishes its Water Services Strategic Plan, which sets out strategies for the utility in the short, medium and longer term.
The plan outlines the semi-State’s priorities in areas such as dealing with customers and upgrading the water network. It describes leakage of water from supply networks as “a serious problem on a national scale”.
The document addresses six key themes: customer service, clean safe drinking water, effective treatment of waste water, a sustainable environment, supporting economic growth and investing for the future.
Its priorities are identified as its customers; reducing problems with the quality of drinking water; making sure waste water treatment complies with European standards; reducing leaks in the water supply system; and gathering up-to-date information on the condition of its assets, such as treatment plants.
The plan will be published on the Irish Water website today and will then be open for consultation and submissions.
“Leakage of water from supply networks is a serious problem on a national scale,” it says. “Unaccounted for Water (UFW), both in Irish Water’s networks and within customer properties, is estimated nationally at approximately 49 per cent of the water produced for supply.
"This is twice the level of that in the UK and several times the typical figures in Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands, indicating that significant investment will be needed over a number of investment cycles to catch up with international norms in the water utility sector. High levels of leakage result in more raw water being abstracted and treated."
It also says there is not enough water capacity in our large towns and cities to ensure spare supplies “in the event of adverse weather conditions or during unplanned incidents such as breaks in trunk mains or problems at a water treatment plant”.
‘Greater investment needed’
Jerry Grant, Irish Water's head of services, said "much greater investment and a nationally co-ordinated approach to asset management, maintenance and operating standards is needed to address weaknesses in the water services systems".
“It is a hugely expensive process to take water from our rivers and lakes and the ground, and turn it into clean drinking water.
“It is equally expensive to collect waste water, treat it, and return it safely to the environment.
“To put this in context, running the national network of water treatment and waste water treatment plants consumes more electricity than any industry in the entire country.”
Initial returns from water meters are expected to help “refine estimates of legitimate usage and levels of leakage within customers’ properties”.
“This will better define the size of the leakage problem, the optimum solutions and help us to determine where the largest leaks are.”