Irish Water has warned it will take "a number of years and high levels of investment" to bring the public supply to the highest standards, following criticism from the environmental watchdog.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said while more than 99% of Ireland’s drinking water supplies were up to scratch, there were a number of serious incidents in 2021.
They included two significant water infrastructure failures in Wexford and Kildare, which put almost 900,000 at risk last year, including hospitalisations and sickness in Gorey.
Irish Water said it invested more than €460m in Ireland’s water treatment plants and networks in 2021, with 12 water treatment plants built or upgraded and an additional 39 sites upgraded.
It pointed to some 42,000 lead connections replaced since 2017, and the lowest ever population on list of ‘at-risk’ supplies.
In response to the incidents at Gorey and Ballymore Eustace water treatment plants in Wexford and Kildare respectively, the utility firm said the new National Operations Management Centre has been stood up on a 24/7 basis.
Some 56 of Ireland’s largest drinking water plants, catering for a population of 2.85m people, have been connected so far to the centre, it said.
"This enables these plants to be monitored around the clock and action to be taken immediately when issues arise. Training has also been rolled out to all water services staff across the country to better equip them to manage or escalate incidents," the firm added.
Irish Water's regional assets operations manager Margaret Attridge said: "We recognise, of course, that challenges remain in some areas and we have prioritised our efforts in addressing these.
"In particular, our enhanced focus on monitoring and testing supplies allows us to identify problems early and take action to fix them and, where appropriate, notify the public of any risks to their drinking water.
"It will take a number of years and high levels of investment to bring our public water supply to the standard we all strive for but we are confident that we are on track to achieve this."