Leak losses unacceptable 'by any measure': water advisory body

Leak losses unacceptable 'by any measure': water advisory body

The amount of water lost through leaks in Ireland remains unacceptable "by any measure", according to a new report issued by a body established to improve the transparency and accountability of Irish Water.

There has also been a disappointing drop-off in the number of leak repairs carried out under Irish Water’s First Fix Free scheme, according to the Water Advisory Body (WAB).

WAB was established in June 2018 to advise the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government on measures needed to improve Irish Water. This is the second quarterly report issued. It includes 11 performance indicators, measuring Irish Water’s performance in a number of areas.

Among the key findings of its latest report:

  • Leakage: By any measure, Ireland’s leakage rate is unacceptable and needs to be a focus for Irish Water in the future. The volume of unaccounted for water has risen in the period 2016-2018, from 732 megalitres per day in 2016 to 781 megalitres per day in 2018.

  • Remedial Action List (Water): Issues at the Leixlip Water Treatment Plant have exposed the vulnerability of Dublin’s water supply, which is also replicated across the country.

  • Compliance of Urban Wastewater Treatment: Overall, compliance for urban wastewater treatment is very low. More than half of the 75% non-compliance can be attributed to one wastewater treatment plant — the plant in Ringsend. The 35 towns and villages releasing raw sewage into the environment remain a priority.

  • Priority Urban Area List (Wastewater): The WAB accepts the EPA’s view that Ireland is not addressing the deficiencies in its wastewater treatment infrastructure fast enough.

  • Mains replacement rate (for water mains): WAB agrees with the Commission for Regulation of Utilities view that Irish Water’s replacement rate will need to be higher given our older infrastructure.

  • Overall compliance with microbiological indicators for drinking water: In general, the WAB notes high compliance with microbiological standards.

  • Boil Water Notices: Two short-term boil water notices were imposed on the Leixlip water treatment plant. This was the single largest boil water notice imposed in Ireland, affecting more than 600,000 consumers.

  • Irish Water Customer Complaints Management: Irish Water has demonstrated good performance against this metric and it is close to Irish Water’s stated aim in its “Water Services Strategic Plan” to resolve (or have outlined steps taken towards resolving) 100% of complaints within five working days.

WAB chairman, Paul McGowan, said there is a "history of underinvestment in water and wastewater in Ireland".

“It continues to be the WAB’s view that the management and improvement of the drinking and wastewater infrastructure and network requires significant and sustained action, particularly in the areas of leakages, mains repairs and wastewater treatment," he said.

"The WAB is of the view that current investment levels need to be maintained, coupled with a strong organisational focus, to enable and deliver a substantial improvement programme. It is firmly our view that increasing public confidence in Irish Water is dependent on visible action in these key areas.

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