Progress on water supply fixes 'has gone backwards'


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.

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.

That is according to the Water Advisory Body (WAB), which said in its latest quarterly report that it "continues to have concerns regarding Irish Water’s progress in fulfilling key metrics".

WAB, an independent statutory body established in 2018, said Irish Water had improved performance in certain areas, pointing to it exceeding its 2020 target of replacing lead connections, as well as a continued decrease in the number of consumers on boil water notices across the country.

However, good progress that was made in certain areas in 2020 was reversed during the last quarter, it said.

"Currently, there are now 48 supplies on the remedial action list and eight supplies on this list for which Irish Water has not submitted a completion date," the WAB said.

The report said there has been a 'continued and disappointing drop-off' in the total number of lead repairs completed under the First Fix Free Scheme scheme since mid-2016. 

"However, WAB anticipates that the expansion of the First Fix Free Scheme, as well as the implementation of the household water conversation policy later this year, will result in higher numbers of leak repairs in the future," it added.

The first fix free scheme offers free leak investigations and free repairs for qualifying properties where a constant flow of water is found on the external water supply pipe. The scheme aims to help reduce the amount of water wasted through leaks on customers' properties, according to Irish Water, which estimated that over 154m litres of water per day have been saved as a result of the scheme to the end of 2019.

In 2015, Irish Water introduced the first fix free scheme to tackle leakage on domestic customers’ properties. 

"Reducing drinking water loss through the first fix scheme helps to conserve water and can help to reduce the amount of money Irish Water spends on treating and supplying water that is ultimately leaked and not used by customers," WAB said.

According to the Commission for Regulation of Utilities, it is estimated that the top 10% of households account for almost 40% of water services demand.

Wastewater treatment was also analysed in the report. In 2020, wastewater treatment at 12 large towns and cities did not meet EU standards set to protect the environment, WAB said.

It said it notes the Environmental Protection Agency's concern that further delays in providing treatment mean that 12 towns and villages will continue discharging raw sewage after 2024 because they will still not be connected to a wastewater treatment plant.