Irish water reform will ‘sustain’ €600m investment per year

A six-week public consultation on reform of the Irish water sector has been launched, with the proposed plans including the establishment of new public utility company Irish Water and a water metering rollout.

Unveiled by Irish minister for the environment, community and local government Phil Hogan and minister of state Fergus O’Dowd last week (January 15) the plans are expected to create 2,000 construction jobs, as well as set-up and sustain a steady level of capital investment worth potentially €600m per year. This is needed to support a decline in exchequer capital investment in water and wastewater services from €435m in 2011 to €371m in 2012, with a further decline to €296m expected by 2014.

It is also expected to encourage foreign investment, boost water conservation and allow Ireland to build a more “efficient and integrated” system. This is expected to be achieved through a new universal metering programme for domestic users as set out in the ‘Programme for Government’ paper.

Plans are also outlined for newly formed Irish Water to take over water investment and maintenance programmes for Ireland’s 34 county and city councils, with the aim of “supervising and accelerating” planned investments to upgrade the State’s water and sewerage networks.

Minister Hogan said the position paper ‘Reform of the water sector in Ireland’ highlights some of the weaknesses in the current model of water services, adding that meeting the challenges of the Water Framework Directive requires “very significant levels of investment and concerted action”.

He said: “The high levels of unaccounted for water in some parts of the country are a serious concern and tackling uneconomic levels of leakage will be urgently prioritised in the future.”

Meanwhile, he also called for Ireland, which he described as “rich in water resources” to continue to “exploit” its natural advantage in order to attract foreign direct investment and high end employment. This he added would help the country meet the demands of existing businesses and communities and provide “high quality water and security of supply”.

Mr Hogan concluded: “The programme of reforms set out in the paper will ensure that the appropriate organisation and funding model are in place to deliver water services to existing and future users, while also providing the volume and quality of water and waste water services required to protect public health and support employment.”

The consultation is set to close on February 24 and the document can be downloaded here.

Carys Matthews

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