Major funds are needed to bolster Ireland's water supplies and wastewater network in the face of increasing extreme weather and climate change, Irish Water has warned.
The utility firm was responding to a report from the independent Water Advisory Board (WAB), which said that progress made on water supplies in need of fixing across the country has gone backwards in the second quarter of this year, after significant improvements made in 2020.
Ireland's prolonged heatwave last week further stressed the network, Irish Water said. Some scientists have said such weather events are likely to become more common due to the climate crisis.
"The scale of this challenge has been underlined again during the recent heatwave with many water supplies around the country coming under stress," a spokesperson for Irish Water said.
"With climate change likely to bring longer spells of warmer weather and more frequent extreme weather events in the years to come, Irish Water’s continued investment in our water and wastewater network is critical to safeguard water supplies and ensure the infrastructure is capable of meeting current and future demand in a sustainable way."
Irish Water said the building, repair and upgrading of water treatment plants, wastewater treatment plants, water and sewer networks will require a multi-billion euro investment programme over many years.
Managing director of Irish Water, Niall Gleeson, insisted that the firm is on the right track, despite the misgivings expressed in the WAB report.
He said: “Despite a range of challenges, including historic under-investment in water and wastewater infrastructure, Irish Water is making significant progress.
"Last year’s investment saw further reductions in the number of customers with at-risk water supplies, major infrastructure projects were delivered, leakage reduced to 40%, 99% of our drinking water was compliant with regulations and we have reduced raw sewage discharges nationally by 51%.”
He conceded however that WAB's latest report was evidence that "much more needs to be done".
More than 5,000 extra consumers have been added to the 1.01m people being supplied with water that is deemed to be at risk due to potential problems with systems, according to WAB.
Irish Water operates 63,000km of water network, treating 1,700 million litres of water daily via almost 800 water treatment plants.