The Water Services Investment Programme 2005 – 2007 outlines details of 899 individual schemes, 193 of which are due to start next year.

Environment Minister Dick Roche said he acknowledged that the timetable would challenge his department and local authorities alike but said he was “radically reducing the red tape involved in getting projects from planning to construction” in order to help meet the targets.

Under the new procedures any scheme costing less than €5 million can proceed straight to construction without sanction from the Minister.

In addition, local authorities will receive a boost in the grant available to then for replacing leaky watermains from the present 75% to 90% of capital costs. Minister Roche said reducing water losses was a cost effective way of reducing pressure on existing infrastructure.

“I expect the increased 90% grant to stimulate the necessary action by local authorities and, to make sure it does, I am asking every authority to submit a detailed timetable for drawing down the €276 million that has been allocated in the programme for water conservation works,” he said.

Mr Roche added that the past few years had seen a remarkable transformation in the quality and coverage of public water and wastewater infrastructure.

“As well as catching up with existing needs, we have also been able to service unprecedented levels of new housing output year after year. Where water or sewerage services were needed to secure new jobs or industry, these services have been provided. More remarkably, in tandem with all the rapid economic growth, employment generation and development generally, we have managed not just to maintain environmental standards but to actually improve them. As part of the drive for balanced development, the new Programme includes 239 schemes worth €2.45 billion that provide direct backing for the National Spatial Strategy.”

The minister said the new Water Services Investment Programme was a dynamic response that would give authorities the funding and direction they need to meet the social development needs of a population that continues to grow at the fastest rate in Europe.

David Hopkins

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