An average of £1 million per month is currently being spent on the Dublin Region Water Conservation Project (DRWCP), following a 1996 Environment Department study which found that over 42% of all water produced in the region was unaccounted for, mainly because of leakage in the distribution system. Overall regional leakage in Dublin is now down to 30%, and a new bulk metering system is in place covering 90% of the region, giving it a drinking water management infrastructure ahead of any other European capital, according to the Irish government.

“The local authorities in the greater Dublin area have now proved conclusively that water conservation, in addition to the environmental benefits, is a practical, realistic and economical way of meeting a significant share of the extra demand for water caused by our current economic growth,” said Environment and Local Government Minister, Noel Dempsey TD.

The project has tackled the water losses by a programme of installing water distribution meters and network management tools, including a state-of-the-art network model and Geographical Information System (GIS).

“Apart from the environmental gains, conservation also makes practical sense,” said Dempsey. “Given the scale and speed of growth in the region in the last few years, only the DRWCP could have delivered the water needed in the short timescale available.” He added, “Conservation also makes economic sense by reducing the need for capital investment on new infrastructure and, on a whole life cost basis, is essentially self financing.”

Increasing demand

There is concern, however, about Dublin’s thirst for water. “The increasing demand for water in Dublin has not been sufficiently analysed,” a Friends of the Irish Environment spokesman told edie. Of particular concern are proposals to extract water from catchments outside the area, which will then have no water returned to them, polluted or not. One example of this is Pollardstown Fen, an area of significance for nature, and not least important as the source of water for the Guinness breweries, which is also currently under threat from the proposed Kildare bypass.

“The water we use in our homes is a valuable commodity,” said Dempsey in a message to householders. “It has to go through a very expensive treatment process before we get it. All of us need to play our part in conserving it. Water Conservation is one of the key themes of the current national environmental awareness campaign, ‘It’s Easy to Make a Difference’.”

The National Water Study, which is soon to be published, will outline the prioritisation of new water conservation schemes which will receive funding from the £3 billion National Development Plan provision for water and sewerage infrastructure over the next seven years.

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