On 26 November 2015, Irish Water published the Preliminary Options Appraisal Report
which identified abstraction from the Parteen Basin in Tipperary as the ‘Emerging Preferred Option’ for a new source of water supply for the Eastern and Midlands Region.
Over 40% of Ireland’s population lives in the Eastern and Midlands Region; work has been ongoing for 8 years to identify a new and sustainable water source to enable the region to grow into the future.
The Preliminary Options Appraisal Report details the extensive assessment process applied to the four potential options that were identified from earlier studies. Two of these options were based on abstraction from the River Shannon at the northeast shoreline of Lough Derg, with and without raw water storage in the Midlands. A further option was based on abstraction from the Shannon, but downstream of Lough Derg at Parteen, and the fourth was desalination of seawater. The Preliminary Options Appraisal Report has detailed the reasons for not proceeding with options involving abstraction from Lough Derg. Consequently, two viable options remain as potential solutions: abstraction of water from the lower Shannon at Parteen Basin in Tipperary or desalination of water from the Irish Sea in Dublin. Parteen Basin has been identified as the emerging preferred option for a number of reasons:
- Abstraction at Parteen Basin has the least environmental impact of the four options under consideration.
- It can avail of existing ‘hydro-power’ infrastructure which ensures that the proposed water abstraction can be implemented within existing normal operating water levels and with no impact on statutory flow requirements in the Lower Shannon.
- Abstraction from hydro-power facilities is common practice worldwide and the Parteen Basin option will use only a small fraction (approximately 2%) of ‘hydro-power’ water that would otherwise have been used for power generation and then discharged to sea.
- It also spreads the benefit over the widest area by creating multiple opportunities to supply treated water to communities in the vicinity of Parteen Basin and along a route corridor from Parteen Basin to Dublin. The counties traversed include Tipperary, Offaly, Laois, Westmeath, Kildare, Meath and Dublin.
The Preliminary Options Appraisal Report concludes that desalination, as the only other potentially viable option at this stage of the project, is much less suitable than the Parteen Basin option, due primarily to significantly higher costs, being a Dublin-centric solution, and being a less environmentally friendly option with a considerably higher energy requirement, chemical usage and waste discharge.
Public feedback was sought on the Preliminary Options Appraisal Report and the Water Supply Project is now undergoing rigorous environmental assessment to ensure that all possible relevant factors are examined in reaching a final decision on the preferred option. The final preferred option will be identified in the Final Options Appraisal Report, due for publication in September 2016.
Public Consultation Process
Three Public Consultation processes have been held to date as part of the ongoing work for the Water Supply Project, to coincide with the publication of Project Reports. The most recent consultation period on the Preliminary Options Appraisal Report concluded in Q1 2016. As part of that process, the Project Team received over 70 emails, phone calls and letters from Individuals and Stakeholder Groups, which contained opinions, suggestions and recommendations concerning a new water supply for the Eastern and Midlands Region. The Project Team held over 40 Stakeholder meetings and 4 Public Consultation Days, to brief Stakeholders on the Preliminary Options Appraisal Report and to elicit feedback. All considerations arising from this third consultation process are being evaluated as part of the determination of the final choice of a new water supply for the Eastern and Midlands Region.
All submissions have been logged and are under review by the Project Team, and will be categorised according to key themes in the Consultation Submissions Report which will be published as part of the Final Options Appraisal Report. The Consultation Submissions Report will outline all submissions received from Stakeholders as well as the Project Team responses; and will inform the selection process for the final preferred option.
A fourth public consultation process will coincide with the publication of this Final Options Appraisal Report.
(See Project Road Map for detail of further consultation periods.)