Frequently Asked Questions

Water Supply Project
A new source and scheme is required to meet the needs of the Eastern and Midlands Region of Ireland because the existing sources and infrastructure neither have the capacity, resilience or connectivity to meet the Region’s growing domestic and business requirements. If this situation is not addressed then regular water outages are likely to become a feature of everyday life for the region in the future.

In addition a significant pollution episode could impact the single source providing up to 85% of Dublin’s water supply.

The new scheme needs to be identified and agreed now because from planning application to construction it takes at least seven years for a scheme of this size to be completed.

The existing domestic, commercial and industrial consumers in the region need to be confident their water supply meets their needs into the future. Furthermore, potential business investors will not consider locating their business in an area where the sustainability of the water supply is not guaranteed.

In January 2014 Irish Water assumed responsibility for water and wastewater services in Ireland. At this time Irish Water also assumed responsibility for the management of the ‘Water Supply Project’ which is looking at options for a new water supply for their Eastern and Midlands Region, which includes Dublin.
Yes, Irish Water, in planning for the Water Supply Project, must ensure that water is also made available in population centres which are planned for development.

Achieving balance in regional development in Ireland is a challenge for government, and all the social and economic partners. As a national water utility, intending to align the provision of ‘best in class’ water services, with the development of water using sectors in an open economy, Irish Water is seeking to ensure that water supply should not be an opportunity-limiting constraint anywhere in the country which is designated as a suitable planning location.

National Spatial Planning over the past 15 years has struggled to achieve the regional balance envisaged in previous Planned Growth Scenarios, and the Demographic report (Appendix A of the Project Need Report) recognises that the employment trends favouring globally networked city regions are becoming more pronounced.

Consequently, Irish Water, whilst supporting the national drive towards balanced regional development, will still need to closely monitor the actual unfolding position, and ensure that infrastructural capacity can respond to it.

The Water Supply Project – Dublin Region* was previously managed by Dublin City Council on behalf of the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government.

* The Water Supply Project – Dublin Region is now the Water Supply Project Eastern and Midlands Region

It will take approximately 8-9 years from now (2016) until the scheme is built and in operation. The project is currently in the planning phase. This phase began in September 2013. It involves preparing a Planning Application and an Environmental Impact Statement including stakeholder consultations in order to determine the preferred new water supply option.

This work is being undertaken between now and the end of 2017. At that point a planning submission with the proposed design for the preferred new water supply option will be made to An Bord Pleanála for their adjudication and consent. Detailed project design will commence upon completion of An Bord Pleanála assessments and Oral Hearings and successful receipt of Planning Consent (expected in the latter half of 2018). Subject to Planning Consent, construction is expected to commence in approximately 2021 and will last until 2024/2025.

The project has Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) approved funding to complete the planning phase including attendance at Oral Hearings organised by An Bord Pleanála up to and until the receipt of a Planning Decision estimated for the latter half of 2018. Subject to the receipt of statutory planning consent, the project will then progress to the detailed design and procurement phase.
The Preliminary Options Appraisal Report (POAR) gives a range of capital, operational and total costs for the 2 remaining ‘technically viable’ options under consideration (Table 9-A, p.102). Subject to the confirmation of the ‘final preferred option’ in early 2017, these costs are indicative of the likely costs associated with these options at this stage of their development.



There are four dedicated Irish Water staff involved in project management, technical, environmental, landowner engagement and communications. These staff are supported by a range of internal support staff on a part time basis across the financial, planning, legal, wayleave acquisition and communication disciplines. Their input fluctuates dependent on the stage of project development. The Irish Water staff are also supported externally with specialist contract staff as required.
FOAR & EIS Scoping
A new source and scheme is required to meet the needs of the Eastern and Midlands Region of Ireland because the existing sources and infrastructure neither have the capacity, resilience or connectivity to meet the Region’s growing domestic and business requirements. If this situation is not addressed then regular water outages are likely to become a feature of everyday life for the region in the future.

In addition a significant pollution episode could impact the single source providing up to 85% of Dublin’s water supply.

The new scheme needs to be identified and agreed now because from planning application to construction it takes at least seven years for a scheme of this size to be completed.

The existing domestic, commercial and industrial consumers in the region need to be confident their water supply meets their needs into the future. Furthermore, potential business investors will not consider locating their business in an area where the sustainability of the water supply is not guaranteed.

In the absence of the WSP, the position would be one of continuing struggle to meet just one aspect of need – ensuring water supply exceeds water demand, week by week. No provision for future economic growth would be possible.

Even with intensified and improved leakage recovery, the sustainable yield of water would struggle to match water demand from the mid 2020’s, and rationing would likely become a regular occurrence.

Dublin is familiar with rationing from previous low water incidents, and there is an understanding of the challenges presented by managing water during rationing periods. For example:-

  • The distinction between trunk mains (which should only move water in bulk) and distribution mains (which deliver water to connected customers) has become blurred in the city over decades, which makes operating a pressure management and rationing strategy extremely difficult.


  • Rationing is initially achieved through night time pressure reductions. This affects any business or industry operating evenings or shift work.


  • Domestic attic storage tanks, drawn down after mains supply is curtailed during the night, would all seek to simultaneously refill when pressure returns the following day. This would significantly distort flow patterns from late morning to late afternoon.


  • When night rationing is introduced, in sections of the city on rotation, teams of operatives must manually operate isolating valves, each evening, and again the following morning. The change in pressure from ‘no flow’ to ‘resumed high flow’ itself leads to additional bursts, and water quality is impaired as sediments in mains are mobilized by the flow surges.


  • Prolonged night rationing leads to customers storing water during the day for use at night (e.g. filling bathtubs), and can, therefore, become ultimately self-defeating.


  • More importantly, bringing the internal pressure down to low levels when flows are cut off during rationing, particularly in a system which suffers extensive leakage at joints, risks contaminated groundwater entering the mains, and produces a public health risk.


If WSP does not proceed, there would have to be a very expensive intensification of an already ambitious leakage recovery effort. It would need to achieve leakage levels not achieved by others, such as the UK, in comparable conditions, despite their significant investment in a regulated environment over several decades.

In short, meeting the increased water need for the region through an escalated leakage recovery programme would simply not be possible in the medium to long-term.

Intensification of abstractions from already overstretched raw water sources generates an increasing risk of failure of supply in drought conditions.

Small scale desalination as an auxiliary supply would be possible, but would be costly, inefficient and operationally challenging.

Multiple dispersed developments of wellfields, to develop groundwater resources has attendant legal, planning and sustainability risks and is not an alternative option to WSP due to the scale of what’s required.

Without the WSP there is no way that Irish Water can meet the requirement of bringing much needed resilience to the overall water supply system for the Region, and to diversify risks associated with it.

No, it is merely the fourth phase of voluntary non-statutory consultations held by Irish Water. There will still be a statutory consultation period, administered by An Bord Pleanála, following the receipt of the planning application from Irish Water. Subject to the outcome of Public Consultation and further environmental and technical studies the planning application is expected to be submitted to An Bord Pleanála in late 2017. Their consultation process is likely to commence in the first half of 2018.
It is proposed to submit the abstraction agreement between Irish Water, and ESB, to An Bord Pleanála, as part of the documentation accompanying the Planning Application, with the exception of any commercially sensitive information.

The details of the proposed abstraction, the operating flexibilities attaching to it, and the manner in which ESB will accommodate the abstraction within their normal operating water level band and flow management regime at Parteen, will be made available.

Chapter 6 of the Final Options Appraisal Report contains many of the technical details which are likely to be included in the abstraction agreement.

The Preferred Scheme has been identified as abstraction from the River Shannon at Parteen Basin (also known as the Lower Lake), with treatment taking place downstream of Lough Derg, close to the abstraction point. Treated water would then be then delivered throughout the region via a 170km pipeline to Dublin.

Subject to the outcome of public consultation and further environmental and technical studies, this is the option which would be developed to a planning application level of design.

Of several site options considered, in each case the preferred intake location at Parteen Basin has been proposed for consultation, as has the preferred site for a Water Treatment Plant nearby in Birdhill. The preferred site for the Break Pressure Tank near the Offaly Tipperary border and Termination Point Reservoir at Peamount in South Dublin have also been identified.

At the Preliminary Options Appraisal Report (Nov 2015) stage, a least constrained 2km wide corridor was identified, and presented for consultation at the time, within which a pipeline route would subsequently be developed. A preferred pipeline corridor, 200m wide, has since been identified and surveyed, and an indicative 50m wide pipeline corridor has been positioned within the 200m corridor. Landowner consultation and environmental surveys have been in progress during this work, the Final Options Appraisal Report outlines the process of arriving at an indicative 50m pipeline corridor, and this is still subject to further refinement resulting from the outcome of consultation with those impacted and the ongoing environmental and technical studies. The recommended sites and indicative 50m pipeline corridor position, and the rationale for selecting them are now subject to public consultation.

Irish Water is continuously developing its Water Conservation Strategy, and has particularly focussed upon and advanced the Customer Side Leakage (CSL) element over the past 15 months. Since more than 866,000 domestic water meters have been commissioned, the opportunity has been taken to use the data to assist customers who have suspected leaks, either in their service pipes, or in their homes.

In August 2015, the Commission for Energy Regulation approved Irish Waters’ “Free First Fix” scheme, designed to assist customers to tackle the problem of leakage which occurs on service pipes, and to otherwise alert customers to leaks within their properties, which are their own responsibility to address.

Having selected a ‘leak alert’ flow rate, as a level above which consumption would be likely to indicate a leak, at the end of Q1, 2016, Irish Water had notified almost 76,000 customers nationally of consumption above this level.

From the resulting requested Free Leak Investigations, and follow-up repairs, daily water savings of over 48 million litres per day (Mld), from more than 6,000 leak repairs, have been achieved nationally to March 2016, and this is comparable in scale to the consumption of a very large town.

It is estimated that over 20 Mld of this has been saved in the supply zones to be covered by the Water Supply Project, Eastern and Midlands Region. While this is helpful to the existing supply, forecast anticipated leakage recovery in this area will not achieve levels of water conservation which will negate the need for the project.

The largest leaks have been prioritised for attention, so that returns from the ‘Free First Fix’ scheme may be expected to reduce over time, but the results achieved in partnership between Irish Water and customers are very encouraging.

In a separate initiative, Irish Water submitted a funding request to the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) to trial water savings measures within the home, including behavioural studies and both internal and external water saving devices. The request for funding has been granted by the CER, and Irish Water has already commenced this project at two trial sites, with work on focus groups and telephone surveys underway since March 2016.

This trial, which will also utilise domestic metering with enhanced reading facilities as a method to appraise the effectiveness of the various devices and technologies, will serve to inform Irish Water and the CER of the merits of demand management devices. If this can be demonstrated, Irish Water will apply to the CER for funding to roll out a more comprehensive conservation initiative nationally.

Knowing the magnitude of customer leaks, helps to better define the magnitude of leaks in public water mains. Domestic metering analytics on ‘leak alerts’ have also been shared with Dublin City Council, to assist them and provide a better focus for watermain rehabilitation resources.

In addition to conservation measures in existing dwellings, Irish Water is working with NSAI and other Stakeholders, and is represented on the relevant Technical Committees to provide enhanced guidance on national domestic plumbing standards in new build and upgraded housing stock, and will examine incentives for retrofitting in existing dwellings. Irish Water also continues to actively engage with large industrial users on water conservation initiatives.

Irish Water is also working on a National Pipeline Replacement Programme which is about finding the worst pipes on our networks and replacing them. A huge amount of work has been done already by Irish Water in this area. Between 2000 and 2010, for example, the annual replacement rate for pipelines was 86km per annum. Irish Water replaced 500km in the two year period 2014 / 2015 and another 200km will be delivered in 2016. In addition, Irish Water have also developed a National Pressure Management Programme, which focuses on reducing excessive water pressure to a level that eases the stress on pipelines, reduces bursts and levels of leakage.

Irish Water understands the importance of raising awareness on conservation and the need for a greater appreciation of the value of water resources from individuals across Ireland. The significant investment being made in our national infrastructure to minimise the loss of water in the system must be accompanied by education initiatives that foster understanding in water customers.

Irish Water has a number of information and education resources available to the public.

The First Fix Free scheme aims to help reduce the amount of water wasted through leaks in customers’ properties. As of quarter 1 2016, the scheme has saved over 48 million litres of water every day from the repair of over 6000 leaks. The First Fix Free Scheme also has a dedicated section of the website ( with tips on checking leaks in the home, information on the scheme itself, how to read your water meter and other frequently asked questions.

There is a dedicated section on the Irish Water website in relation to water conservation for customers available at This includes a section on making small lifestyle changes to save water in the kitchen, bathroom and garden. It also includes information on water leaks in the home with advice on simple checks customers can carry out to determine if there are any internal plumbing issues. Information is also available on water saving devices and examples of the types of devices available.

Information campaigns are also being carried out by Irish Water to educate the public on water and wastewater treatment. From Cloud to Glass is a campaign aimed at helping customers to get a better understanding of the water treatment process. There is a corresponding module on wastewater called From Drain to Sea. Both campaigns illustrate the journey of water and wastewater treatment process through the use of a video and interactive website at

Irish Water also supports a number of environmental education campaigns which raise awareness, promote understanding and encourage customers to take action on water conservation issues. Irish Water is currently partnered with An Taisce’s Environmental Education Unit (Green-Schools and Clean Coasts Programmes), the EPA (Live Green initiative) and the Department of Housing Community and Local Government (Tidy Towns competition) to help communicate the messages of water conservation across Ireland.

The Water Theme of the Green-Schools programme which operates in 90% of primary and secondary schools across the country encourages improvement in water efficiency through the Green-Schools programme framework. Through our partnership with An Taisce, we work with over 200,000 students in schools throughout the country, to help them increase awareness of water conservation in their schools and local communities. A recent survey of schools awarded the Green Flag for the Water theme shows that on average they decreased the amount of water consumed by 38%.

The Think Before You Flush campaign aims to tackle the problem of sewage related litter on Ireland’s beaches. Irish Water is supporting this campaign led by An Taisce’s Clean Coasts Programme, to highlight the problem sanitary products and other items can cause in our marine environment and our wastewater systems if they are flushed down the toilet.

The Tidy Towns Value Water Award is a special award within the national SuperValu TidyTowns competition. The Value Water Award aims to connect communities with their water and encourages them to raise awareness around responsible water usage and sustainable water management in their locality. Irish Water supports the behavioural changes and activities being undertaken by communities across Ireland to reduce water waste and promote water conservation awareness.

Irish Water also supports the EPA’s Live Green campaign which provides members of the public with information on water conservation. The campaign offers advice to householders on:

  • Leak detection and internal plumbing issues
  • First Fix Free Scheme
  • Smart tips on water conservation
  • Drinking water quality
  • Winter proofing and
  • How to report a leak
An Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is a process where a proposed plan or project is assessed with a set of criteria to anticipate effects on the environment, the criteria are as follows:

  • Air
  • Noise and Vibration
  • The Landscape
  • Cultural Heritage
  • Biodiversity
  • Land and Soil
  • Water
  • Traffic and Transport
  • Population and Human Health
  • Agronomy
  • Water
  • Material Assets
An EIS, is an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) which is a report that is produced as a result of the Environmental Impact Assessment process for a proposed project. An EIS describes the positive and negative effects of a proposed project. If the likely effects are negative or unacceptable, potential mitigation measures are proposed to reduce environmental impact.
An EIS Scoping report outlines the criteria that will be used to assess the likely environmental impact of a proposed plan or project. An EIS Scoping report outlines what will be assessed during an EIA process and what will be included in the final report, the EIS.
An Appropriate Assessment (AA) is an assessment carried out where a plan or project is likely to have a signification impact on a Natura 2000 site (European Designated site – Special Area of Conservation [SAC] or Special Protection Area [SPA]). The AA process includes the follows steps:

  • AA Screening – this established whether a plan or project could have a significant effect on a Natura 2000 site, if a like effect is establish a full AA is required


  • Full AA – this focused and details the impact assessment of the implications of the plan or project, alone and in combination with other plans and projects, on the integrity of a Natura 2000 site in view of its conservation objectives
A Natura Impact Statement (NIS) is the statement prepared following an AA Screening (where the AA Screening concludes a Full AA is required). The NIS presents the information on the assessment and the process of collating the data on a project and its potential significant impacts on the Natura 2000 sites.

The NIS is informed by ecological specialists, that undertake surveys, research and analysis, with input from other experts (e.g. hydrologists or engineers), who predicts any potential significant effects a project may have on Natura 2000 sites.

While the Preferred Scheme for a new water supply source for the Eastern and Midlands Region of Ireland has been proposed, more research and assessment needs to be done to ensure that all possible relevant factors are examined in reaching a final decision. This process includes a 14 week non-statutory public consultation and we invite submissions from the general public and key stakeholders on the preferred scheme and EIS Scoping Report. Irish Water would like your views on the following:*

  • Is there any additional information that is considered in the development of the Preferred Scheme?


  • Are there any additional environmental issues (not currently included in the EIS Scoping Report) or alternative methodologies that should be taken into consideration in preparing the EIS and how should these issues be addressed in the EIS?


  • How would you like Irish Water to communicate with you as the project progresses towards planning approval?

*The terms of reference provide guidance, but we welcome all relevant submissions on any aspect of the project.

The feedback from this consultation period alongside further technical and environmental studies and engagement with landowners will inform the selection of the Final Scheme which will be detailed in the EIS and this will accompany Irish Water’s Planning Application to An Bord Pleanála in circa Q4 2017.
Following submission of the planning application to An Bord Pleanála, they (The Board) will manage a period of statutory consultation, including oral hearings, following which they will determine whether planning consent should be granted.
The planning process is outlined in the project roadmap (below). We anticipate that a planning application will be submitted to An Bord Pleanála (the Board) in late 2017, after which the Board will assess the relevant reports and consultation phases reports (e.g. Planning application, EIS, AA) and manage a period of statutory consultation, including oral hearings. Following this, the Board will determine whether planning consent should be granted.

Project Road Map_V11

The European Communities (Good Agricultural Practice for Protection of Waters) Regulations (also known as the GAP or Nitrates Regulations) gives legal effect to Ireland’s Nitrates Action Programme, required by the Nitrates Directive (91/676/EEC). Compliance with the GAP Regulations is overseen by the Department of Agriculture Food and the Marine with Local Authorities responsible for enforcement.

Article 17 of the GAP Regulations regulates the land spreading of organic fertilisers in the vicinity of drinking water abstraction points. For a scheme supplying 100m3 or more per day or serving 500 or more persons a 200m distance from the abstraction point applies.

Based on the current quality of the water proposed for abstraction from Parteen Basin, Irish Water is not proposing to seek any changes to this 200m setback.

The map below shows the indicative buffer zone comprising of a circle of 200m radius, centred on the raw water intake location.


The 2km wide least constrained pipeline route corridor has been positioned to avoid as far as possible, the major constraints such as population settlements, designated environmental areas, cultural heritage areas etc.  In positioning a pipeline route within this corridor, factors such as the hydraulic profile of the pipeline, avoidance of impact on non-designated but important habitat, and available space near existing residential and other development are also taken into account.  The position of the pipeline and chambers within land holdings is also considered for least impact on land use and potential.
In routing a pipeline within a 200m envelope, before finally fixing on a construction wayleave of approx. 50m in width, issues raised by landowners will be taken into account, as far as practicable and in a collective way, in final positioning of the pipeline. [Note – issues may also be raised through the public consultation process].
The Final Options Appraisal Report is anticipated for publication in end-2016. This will identify a 200m wide preferred route envelope. Any Landowner affected by the route will have the opportunity to participate fully in the public consultation process at that time.
In the context of the Water Supply Project a wayleave is the legal right to construct, operate and maintain a pipeline within a strip of land.
Once construction is complete and the pipeline is operating, a right of access (or wayleave) is required to inspect and maintain the pipeline and chambers. This permanent wayleave which is legally documented by way of a Deed of Easement and is registered as a burden on the title of the affected land will typically be 20m in width. While the land can be farmed in the normal way, there will be restrictions on building development and forestry within the permanent wayleave, in accordance with the Deed of Easement.
The permanent wayleave, within which the pipeline will be laid, will be registered as a permanent ‘burden on title’ on the land.  The temporary working width is required to facilitate the laying of the pipeline during the construction period only. Both the permanent wayleave and the temporary working width will be fully reinstated post construction.

overview water-001

A temporary working width is required in the construction stage only, to manage the operations involved in construction of the pipeline and the valve chambers. This includes space to properly store the excavated topsoil and subsoil, to transport materials from roads to the working area, to excavate the trench and for staff and machinery to work safely. Additional space may also be required at particular points such as crossings of motorways, railways, canals, etc.

On the Water Supply Project, the temporary working width will typically be 50m wide (inclusive of a permanent wayleave).

Irish Water is communicating with Landowners through four dedicated Landowner Liaison Officers (LLOs). The role of the LLOs is to provide landowners with a dedicated point of contact throughout the planning phase, through construction, and afterwards.  Each landowner whose land may be on the pipeline route has a nominated LLO as an ongoing point of contact for the project.

Irish Water also ensures that the most up to date project information is posted on its website. Irish Water has held three public consultation periods to date to disseminate key project findings through milestone reports and to get stakeholder feedback on these reports. The Project Team has engaged and consulted with members of the public and interested parties, including landowners, through Stakeholder Meetings and Public Consultation Days as well as the website, emails, letters and phone calls. Open Days and landowner engagement evenings will be held during the next stage of public consultation (estimated late 2016 to early 2017) and ongoing liaison with landowners on the final route will continue throughout 2017.

An agronomist is an agricultural scientist with particular specialism in the area of soil science and management and plant and crop production.  In the context of the Water Supply Project, an agronomist will input to the Code of Practice on the care of the soil during construction, and restoration, as well as to environmental impact assessment. The project team includes Agronomy specialists.
A pre-entry agreement is put in place with each individual landowner in advance of construction commencing to document the requirements of each landowner in terms of fencing, water supply for stock, crossing points and drainage etc.
The overall construction period for the project is likely to be 3-4 years, but disruption will be much shorter than this for each particular landholding.
It is expected that construction works would last approximately 4-6 months in each landholding, with the temporary working width required for a period of 18 months in total (including the installation of temporary fencing to the completion of topsoil reinstatement, seeding and removal of the temporary fencing).

In areas of poor or difficult ground, or in areas near major road and river crossings, different construction methods may be required which could result in a longer construction time.

Photos Showing excavation works and pipelaying
(Photos courtesy of United Utilities(West-East Link Main))


Construction will not take place on agricultural lands in winter. Construction at other locations which are not seasonally sensitive for soils, such as the Water Treatment Plant site, can continue during wintertime.
Yes. Irish Water is committed to the full and proper restoration of all land disturbed by its operations and for restoring any boundary walls and fences affected by the works to a condition equivalent to that existing before the commencement of the works.
Lands will be reinstated based on best practice construction methodology which Irish Water’s parent company Ervia has used for the construction of over 2,000km of natural gas transmission pipelines over 40 years and summarised in a Code of Practice which will be made available to landowners as part of a wayleave package. This will outline how topsoil and subsoil will be stripped, stored and protected, how backfill in the trench will be compacted, how excavated material will be disposed of, how land drainage will be managed throughout, and how the temporary working width will be prepared to receive subsoil, and then topsoil, prior to seeding.


before-after reinstatement

Hydraulic design work is continuing, but at this time the most likely pipe size is 1700mm diameter in the rising main section to a high point at the Tipperary/Offaly border and 2000mm diameter in the gravity section from there to the termination point reservoir in south Dublin.
The minimum cover from the ground to the top of the pipe will be 1.2m, but where the overall design tries to minimise the number of valves, and position them where possible near boundaries, for least interference in landholdings, there will be sections of pipe which are at greater depth than 1.2m. Crossings of roads / rivers / rail and canal will also involve an increase of cover to the top of the pipe, generally a minimum of 1.6m.
There are many materials used worldwide in water transfer pipelines, including concrete, steel, ductile iron and other polyethylene based materials. The pipeline material has not yet been selected and is likely to be the outcome of a procurement competition if the project receives planning consent.
No. The pipeline will be laid underground, and will not be visible.
There are three kinds of valves on the pipeline; air valves, scour or washout valves, and line valves.

Air Valves:

Air valves permit any air in the water to be released, and they permit air to enter the line if it needs to be drained down for maintenance.

It is expected that air valves would be placed every 500m to 600m as they are needed at high points along the route, any changes in the slope and sometimes they are positioned beside line valves. Efforts will be made in design to position valves for least intrusion on farming activity in the permanent wayleave.

Line Valves:

Line valves are typically placed every 4km-6km apart, as buried valves.  In some instances it may be necessary to provide electrical power to operate some of the line valves in which case a surface kiosk would be required.  Line valves would, wherever possible, be positioned adjacent to public roads.
Washout Valves:

Washout valves allow sections of the pipeline to be emptied. It is very rare that these valves are used, and are generally only planned for maintaining the pipeline every 20 to 30 years.


Surveyors have been working on lands to define the likely 200m corridor, and also in adjacent areas where constraints are more spatially dense.  A 50m wide temporary working width, which will include the 20m wide permanent wayleave, will be defined within this 200m corridor, meaning that a lot of the land which has been surveyed, will not necessarily be affected by the project.
No. Flooding will not arise from construction activities. The timing of construction in land prone to flooding will be timed for dry non-flood periods. There will be no construction during winter periods. The construction of the pipeline and reinstatement of land will be undertaken in a manner which will ensure that the pipeline trench does not become a conduit for water.
Construction in bogland will have to be designed on an individual basis based on Site Investigation data and may involve the use of ‘piling’ technology to ensure a stable foundation.
The pipeline material and construction specifications, as well the high degree of quality control and testing that will be undertaken at construction stage, will ensure that the likelihood of a leak occurring will be very low.

In the unlikely event that a leak should occur, valves along the pipeline will limit the amount of water that can leak from the pipe.  A maintenance plan will be put in place so that if a leak does occur it can be detected quickly and the repair will be carried out to minimise the impact on landowners and to the water supply.

Potential impacts on lakes will be assessed during the Environmental Impact Assessment process. Pipeline construction and reinstatement of land will be undertaken in a manner which will ensure that the pipeline trench does not become a conduit or barrier for water movement. This can be achieved by constructing impermeable barriers (stanks) at regular intervals along the trench or through the use of bedding and backfill mixed with a ‘bentonite’ clay to ensure or increase impermeability.

Wells will be identified during planning of the proposed pipeline. A water monitoring programme of groundwater wells will be completed before, during and after the construction phase. If wells are damaged or the water quality/quantity is affected during the construction phase, an alternative supply will be provided to the landowner as is standard practice on all pipeline projects.  In the unlikely event of a well drying up an alternative well will be drilled provided the damage to the well is connected to and traceable to the construction of the pipeline.

In assessing losses, regard will be taken of E.U. and State support schemes, including Single Farm payments, R.E.P.s payments, the Agri-Environment Options Scheme (AEOS) payments etc.

If a new reference period is adopted for entitlement to the single farm payment, and if this reference period coincides with the pipeline construction programme, Irish Water will consult with the Department of Agriculture on the effect that a construction programme might have on establishing a new base line for determining the entitlement to such payments.

Irish Water will initially make a case for “force majeure” to the Department of Agriculture not to penalise the landowner for the loss of farming acres. In the event of the Department of Agriculture not allowing concessions, then the matter will be treated as a compensation issue

Development of buildings or structures within the permanent wayleave will be restricted for the protection of the pipeline and to facilitate access for future maintenance purposes. Landowners will be required to ensure that nothing is deposited over the pipeline that could interfere with access and to ensure that the depth of soil cover afforded to the pipeline is not materially altered.
In addition to the restrictions on development outlined above there will be restrictions on the planting of some trees and height of shrubs within the permanent wayleave.
Normal agricultural operations can resume once reinstatement has been completed including fencing, hedging and ditching not causing interference or obstruction to the pipeline or material reduction of the depth of soil.
Landowners will be compensated for the permanent wayleave and for any crop losses and/or disturbance incurred during construction.
It is anticipated that a wayleave package including a Code of Practice and financial compensation measures (including ‘burden on title’, crop loss and disturbance payments) will be agreed with landowner representatives, which will then be offered to landowners for their acceptance on a voluntary basis.
Ervia (formerly Bord Gáis Éireann) has been using this approach for wayleave acquisition on its natural gas transmission pipeline projects for the past 35 years and the approach is, at this stage, very well understood by the farming community.
It is proposed that the water will be treated near the point of abstraction, in the Parteen Basin area, before it is pumped to a high point in Tipperary / Offaly, from which it will flow onwards through the Midlands, supplying communities there, before entering the Dublin supply network at a new terminal point reservoir in south Dublin.
Preliminary Options Appraisal Report
The outcome of the consultation process on the Options Working Paper is documented in detail in Appendix H of the Preliminary Options Appraisal Report. The main themes which were raised in submissions are tabulated below.



  • Desalination
  • Lough Derg (Direct) / Lough Derg and Storage / Parteen Basin
  • Other options and alternatives
Water Conservation and Leakage Control

  • Leakage
  • Conservation Initiatives
Constraints and Assessment Criteria
Economic Development
Water Demand

  • Biodiversity
  • Climate Change
  • Fisheries
  • Alien Invasive Species
Water Framework and Habitats Directives

  • Water Framework Directive
  • Habitats Directive
Communities / Benefitting Corridor

  • Benefitting Corridor Demand & Source Consolidation
  • Farming
Tourism and Amenity

  • Tourism & Raw Water Storage

  • Planning Policy
  • Planning Horizon
  • Legal Issues

  • Plumbosolvency
  • Recommendations
  • Questions raised


Submissions covered a wide spectrum of issues, some emphasising the importance of conservation measures and leakage control to minimise water demand, others expressing concern on possible environmental and tourism impacts on Lough Derg, or in relation to inter-catchment spread of invasive alien species, with still more emphasising the importance of a nationally coherent approach to spatial planning and the application of environmental law. Submissions were received related to the importance of water-based tourism, and the importance of fisheries, of navigation, and of protection of birds and mammals.


Some were of the view that the assessment criteria and environmental constraints had been well set out using a clear methodology, others disagreed with that position. Alternative options, including environmental flow replacement, and wastewater re-use were proposed in some submissions for examination.


Responses to the points raised, by theme, are set out in Appendix H to the Preliminary Options Appraisal Report.

The Preliminary Options Appraisal Report was a milestone in the process of selecting a preferred option which will be submitted to An Bord Pleanála for planning consent (expected late 2017).


The previous Options Working Paper (June 2015) represented an independent review of 10 potential new water supply options for meeting demand in the Dublin Water Supply Area, which were identified and evaluated in a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) published in 2011. It validated further appraisal of four technically viable options and it explained how it was proposed to make decisions later in the planning process, on a preferred option.


It emphasized the importance of water quality surveys and subsoil investigative studies which the SEA identified as necessary for decision making.


The Preliminary Options Appraisal Report (POAR) examined the four options, identified in the Options Working Paper, with preliminary modelling of Lough Derg/Parteen Basin and the subsoil investigation results at the raw water storage site at Garryhinch available. It set out reasons why abstraction from the north east corner of Lough Derg, with or without raw water storage in the Midlands, was not favoured, and it identified an emerging preferred option involving abstraction from the Shannon in the Parteen Basin area. The final preferred option will be confirmed in late (Q4) 2016 following further water quality data gathering and appraisal of abstraction from Parteen against Desalination, the other remaining option as identified in the POAR.

The Public Consultation Process for the Options Working Paper (which took place from June through to August 2015) sought comments, suggestions and opinions on the Constraints and Criteria to be considered as part of the Water Supply Project. The final criteria developed using feedback from this consultation process were used to assess the four remaining options from the Options Working Paper (June 2015). The assessment process and results are outlined in the Preliminary Options Appraisal Report. Choosing the best or preferred option based on a single criterion is relatively easy, but where there are several criteria, the selection methodology becomes more difficult. Multi Criteria Analysis is a method of evaluation which allows several criteria to be considered simultaneously to determine the optimum option from a range of choices.
The Preliminary Options Appraisal Report outlines in detail why two (2) of the four (4) options taken forward in the Options Working Paper, are not being brought further in the EIA & Planning Process. The key findings from the options appraisal process are summarised as follows:-

  • Modelling work done to date, indicates that abstraction in the North Eastern sector of Lough Derg, in a dry year such as 1995, would diminish flow through the lake, and would be associated with increased ‘residence time’ of water in particular sections of the lake.
  • This conclusion applies to both continuous abstraction at average rate (Option B) and to seasonally varied abstraction along with raw water storage in the midlands (Option F2).
  • Two months raw water storage, to be filled at times of higher flows, for use in low summertime flows, would not offset this effect in prolonged dry weather. Ground conditions emerging from investigations at the prospective storage site indicate that estimated costs of construction of the storage, and risks of environmental impacts associated with such work, would be significantly increased (over originally anticipated costs / impacts).
  • Delivering raw water over a long distance to a midlands storage, carries risks of transfer of alien invasive species to other catchments, and is also not favoured in terms of meeting Irish Waters’ national remit to improve water supplies in an optimum ‘benefiting corridor’.
  • Consultation submissions have indicated that, of the three options considered on the Shannon, and without prejudice to the need to fully define the merits of the option, abstraction from Parteen would be preferred over the other two options.
Irish Water has examined prospective options which have been suggested in submissions received on public consultation on the Options Working Paper. These have included rainwater harvesting, and other conservation measures, as well as environmental flow replacement on the River Liffey, and wastewater reuse. The position on each of these is set out in the response to Public Consultation in Appendix H of the Preliminary Options Appraisal Report.
The project will be the most significant upgrade of new source infrastructure and associated water services in over 80 years. It will meet the domestic, commercial and industrial water needs of 40% of Ireland’s population resident in the Eastern & Midlands Region until 2050. It will address security of supply risks and resilience deficiencies on existing sources currently serving the region. It will support inward investment, and the growth of water-using sectors of our economy, with a modern, reliable and sustainable water supply, which is a key global competitiveness factor.


The project will deliver tangible benefits in the lives of citizens, and in the economy, locally and nationally. It is a key part of the mix of facilities Ireland needs to support future development.


The project proposes to develop a new water source, abstracting from the River Shannon, downstream of Lough Derg, at Parteen Basin, for the Eastern and Midlands Region using a small fraction of water that would otherwise have been used for power generation and then discharged to the sea. The Parteen Basin Option would involve abstraction of water on the eastern shore of Parteen Basin, and treatment of the water nearby. Treated water would be piped 165km to a termination point reservoir in West Dublin. Supplies of treated water would be made available to communities along the route from Parteen Basin to Dublin.


It proposes to abstract 330 million litres of water per day, or 4 cubic metres per second, from Parteen Basin by 2050, one third of which would be used in the communities of the ‘benefiting corridor’ and two thirds in the Dublin Water Supply Area.

Abstraction of water at Parteen is already highly regulated because of the presence of the Ardnacrusha hydro-power plant. The proposed abstraction of water will use a small fraction (approximately 2%) of water that would otherwise have been used for power generation and then discharged to the sea. Abstraction of water from hydro-electric power schemes is commonly employed worldwide to enable environmentally sustainable availability of drinking water.


The hydro-power plant in the river already regulates the lake levels and river flow. The proposed abstraction of water is in essence, an abstraction from the hydro-power plant, using existing water level controls, rather than building new ones. Water levels on Lough Derg & Parteen Basin will be managed within the same water level ‘normal operating band’ as currently applies. The statutory compensation water of 10 cubic metres per second spilled from Parteen Weir into the Old Shannon will remain unchanged and undiminished under this proposal. Navigation and tourism will experience the same operating water level range as normal.


By abstracting at Parteen rather than at north east of Lough Derg, the water will already have passed through the lake, contributing to ‘turn over’ of the lake water, in the same way as it naturally does at present and therefore the Lough Derg Ecosystem will remain unaffected.


The location of the facility for abstracting and treating the water is close to the mouth of the river Shannon. This limits any impacts upstream, and avoidance of the need for separate storage, as is the case with North East Lough Derg Options, and it also reduces the possibility of introducing invasive species into other rivers.

There are difficulties with adopting a design horizon much beyond 35 years, in that reliability of demographic projections, or of econometric modelling of non-domestic requirements, or of climate change pressures, declines as the horizon recedes beyond 35 years.


There has to be a proper balance between meeting a foreseeable, well established and justified need, and potentially expending scarce national resources before they are required.


A ‘business’ case to the Board of Irish Water, and to the CER (Irish Water Economic Regulator), needs a high degree of predictive reliability to be accepted, and that is also a requirement in the statutory planning process with An Bord Pleanála. The technical options which may become available at 2050, and the unfolding position on climate change, need to be allowed to emerge, and they need to be given fair and informed consideration at that time.

Permission to abstract water at Parteen Basin, under the Local Government (Sanitary Services) Act 1964, is tied to the volumetric flow rates of water to be defined in an agreement to be negotiated with ESB, which agreement in turn will be subject to the consent of the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government and also subject to planning consent from An Bord Pleanála for the overall scheme. An Bord Pleanála (ABP) will test compliance with environmental law via EIA and Appropriate Assessment under the Habitats Directive.


The flow rates in the agreement to be negotiated with ESB and defined in a planning permission which may be granted by ABP  cannot be changed without due legal process, in a completely new abstraction application, and if such a proposal were advanced by future generations, the same burden of proof on sustainability would fall on them, with respect to cumulative impact with the standing abstraction at the time. Any increased abstraction which may arise (post 2050) would also require further significant investment in infrastructure involving expansion of treatment plants, new pipelines and pumps.

The proposed pipeline, and pumping regime have been sized to abstract 330 Mld, and, after 16 Mld is used in the treatment process, to transfer 314 Mld of treated water onwards from the Treatment Plant, at an energy-efficient pipe diameter.


A pipeline is not sized in isolation, but is designed together with its three fundamental elements. These are the necessary pumping energy, the required flow, and the allowable pressure for the material of the pipeline as it delivers the water.


If it is proposed to deliver more water than the design flow, that could only happen with permission to do so, after a completely new planning process.


Any increased abstraction which may arise (post 2050) would also require further significant investment in infrastructure involving expansion to treatment plants, new pipelines and pumps.


The pipeline, as a national water spine, could accept input of treated water from other sources, including possible groundwater sources local to its route, which may be proven to be sustainable in the time period to 2050, as a way of potentially incrementing its capacity beyond that point should it be required.

Irish Water are part way through a data gathering process on water quality in Lough Derg-Parteen Basin, and are using the accumulating data to calibrate and verify a hydrodynamic model of the Lower Shannon. The hydrodynamic model can simulate water abstraction impacts on water levels, water flows and water quality under a representative range of climatic conditions including future climate change conditions. Information gathered to date, taken together with the subsoil investigation results at Garryhinch, the site of a raw water storage proposed with one of the options, and submissions received in consultation on the Options Working Paper (June – Aug 2015), have all highlighted the relative environmental benefits of abstracting downstream of Lough Derg, rather than in the north eastern sector of the Lough itself.


However, the identification of abstraction at Parteen as an ‘emerging preference’ recognises that the gathering of further data from the water quality survey, and updating of the hydrodynamic model with that data is necessary. The completion of the appraisal of both the Parteen and the Desalination options, including full whole life costing, is necessary before a preferred option is identified with sufficient certainty that it complies fully with the requirements of all relevant environmental and planning legislation.

Yes, the option of Desalination must be fully explored because it is technically viable and does have some obvious advantages, which are:-

  • With the sea, water availability is not a constraining factor.
  • It is a solution which would be located close to the centre of two-thirds of the projected water demand in the Eastern and Midlands Region.
  • It can be modularly expanded in response to actually emerging water demand, thereby de-risking, to some limited degree, uncertainties in water demand projection and timing.


In that appraisal, full assessment must also take place of important disadvantages which apply to desalination, and which have influenced Irish Water’s views on the emerging preference towards Parteen. These, in summary, are:-

  • It is a ‘Dublin-centric’ solution to a water supply problem which covers the Midlands and Eastern Region. It would not contribute towards the integration and consolidation of water supplies in the Midlands, bringing them to a common nationwide standard of service, and that challenge would still have to be addressed, and funded.
  • It is an expensive and energy intensive process, with a high capital and operating cost, and high carbon footprint.
  • Operation of desalination as an intermittent auxiliary source, or as a supplementary source in drought periods, would have significant operational challenges.


It is important to note that desalination also has some significant adverse environmental impacts, in terms of coastal location of a desalination plant, disposal of the brine waste product and chemicals from the desalination process, construction impacts in the marine environment, and its energy intensity.

The Shannon is the most suitable source of new supply for a number of reasons:

  • It provides treated water, delivered in a way which brings the greatest availability and economic advantages to the widest group of communities in Irish Water’s Eastern and Midlands Region. Towns and communities along the proposed pipeline route through the Eastern and Midlands Region will gain the capacity to meet future domestic, commercial and industrial water requirements and therefore the opportunity to boost their economies. This option will help to ensure that all consumers will have a reliable and sustainable water supply with minimal risk of outage.
  • It enables the delivery of a more efficient and up to date supply infrastructure by facilitating the development of fewer and more modern water treatment plants to replace the numerous small, inefficient and outdated plants currently operating across the region.
  • It is less expensive by a factor of one and a half times with a lower carbon footprint than Desalination, which is the only other remaining technically viable option under consideration.
The Parteen Basin is the most suitable location on the River Shannon because:

  • It has, by far, the least environmental impact of the three Shannon options which have been under consideration. It is the closest location to the river mouth with most of the water having already flowed through the Shannon. By contrast, the North East Lough Derg abstraction option with storage at Garryhinch, involves abstraction much further up-river, it carries greater risk of environmental impact and also risks transfer of potentially environmentally damaging alien species such as Asian clams and zebra mussels into other river catchments.
  • The pipeline from Parteen will serve treated water to more locations, towns and communities en route from the Shannon to Dublin than any other option – without this scheme these towns would require significant investment.

Abstraction of water at Parteen is already highly regulated because of the presence of ESB’s Ardnacrusha hydro-power plant. The proposed abstraction of water is, in essence, an abstraction of water from the hydro-power scheme. Abstraction of water from hydro-electric power schemes is commonly employed worldwide to enable environmentally sustainable availability of drinking water.

Preliminary costs, at a high level and over an operating period of 30 years, were prepared for the Lough Derg – Parteen Basin and Desalination options, and are presented in the Preliminary Options Appraisal Report, Section 9.4 Table 9-A. This table is re-produced below, where all costs are outlined excluding VAT:


Option Capital CostsCAPEX(€ Million) Operating CostsOPEX(€ Million) Total CostsTOTEX(€ Million)
Option C: Parteen Basin Reservoir (Direct) €700M – €900M €200M – €300M €900M – €1200M
Option H: Desalination €500M – €700M €800M – €900M €1300M – €1600M


As expected, the cost of operating a Desalination Plant is considerably more expensive than one which is based on the conventional treatment processes currently employed in Ireland. This is consistent with international experience where the challenges to be overcome in converting sea water to a drinking water standard fit for human consumption are very energy intensive, and require chemical ‘blending’ to condition the water to a similar hardness and taste the consumer is used to.


Overall, the whole life cost of a Desalination option is a factor of 1.4 greater than one based on Lough Derg – Parteen Basin. Typically, on a measure-for-measure basis, this is less than envisaged. Whilst the construction cost of the desalination treatment plant is actually a multiple of 2 greater when compared with the conventional treatment plant, the much longer distance involved in conveying treated water from a Shannon source to the eastern seaboard (165km versus 35km) adds significantly to the overall capital expenditure.


However, caution is urged in interpreting the costs as they are not a like-for-like comparison, e.g. the Desalination option is a Dublin-centric solution whereas Lough Derg – Parteen Basin directly benefits communities in the Midlands. If the Desalination option was extended to these communities, in conjunction with a strategic re-balancing of existing sources of supply, then it would be prudent to budget for an additional €100M which would increase the cost factor differential between the options to 1.5 (based on cost of water delivered).


The range in costs indicate the ‘sensitivity’ of the options to factors emerging in detailed design (e.g. pipe material selection, routing of pipeline, optimisation, etc.) and uncertainties in budgeting for future operational costs given the potential fluctuations in energy markets, particularly with regard to the treatment plant.

Community Gain
Some projects, particularly large projects or strategic infrastructure projects, normally benefit a wide range of communities but the construction and operational impacts of the project may have (or are perceived to have) a disproportionate impact on the communities in which the project is located. Community Gain seeks to redress this situation on behalf of the ‘impacted’ communities– this is widespread ‘best international practice’.
No. Compensation addresses ‘direct & measureable ‘losses’ and is more specific – for example landowners are compensated for wayleaves on their land for pipelines and also for crop loss and disturbance. CG is more high level and seeks to provide benefits which can generally be shared by a wide range of communities in the ‘impacted environment’
  • Improved and sustainable domestic and commercial water supplies for all communities located in the catchment area of the proposed water supply scheme e.g. Clare, Tipperary, Offaly, Laois, Westmeath, Kildare, Meath & Dublin.
  • Job creation arising from the availability of secure, high quality water supplies
  • Sourcing of products and services from local businesses – Irish Water, working with Local Authorities and other relevant bodies will seek to ensure that local supplier inputs are optimised
  • The construction phase of the project has the potential to provide a range of employment opportunities for local people – Irish Water, working with Local Authorities and other relevant bodies, propose to provide financial support for training schemes to enable as many local people as possible to work on the project
  • Irish Water also propose to support the development of tourism, environmental education & protection initiatives, sports and leisure facilities
In progressing a Planning Application under the Strategic Infrastructure Act, An Bord Pleanála, should they decide to grant permission, may under the planning acts, specify conditions that provide for ‘community gain’. Meaningful ‘community gain’ is normally best developed in consultation with stakeholders, culminating in proposals developed in partnership with such stakeholders, and proactively submitted to An Bord Pleanála, and this is the approach which Irish Water propose to follow on WSP.
In the context of the WSP project, which is classed as ‘Strategic Infrastructure Development’, the planning process and legislation requires that due consideration of community gain is undertaken by the planning applicant. Community Gain (CG) was introduced into the Planning & Development Acts (Strategic Development) in 2006 – this legislation applies to Irish Water in relation to attaining planning consent for WSP from An Bord Pleanála (ABP).


ABP in considering planning applications for Strategic Development may specify Community Gain conditions or alternatively the applicant, in consultation with the impacted communities, may build in Community Gain into the planning application for consideration by ABP. This latter option is the one favoured by Irish Water and Irish Water is now consulting on its proposals in that regard.


The ‘Emerging Preferred Option’ involves an inter-catchment transfer of water i.e. water is transferred from the Shannon River Catchment to the Eastern River Basin Catchments. Whilst Irish Water are confident that the ‘water transfer’ can be implemented in an environmentally sustainable manner, Irish Water will, subject to planning approval, become a long term stakeholder in the Lower Shannon Region and would want to become a good ‘corporate neighbour’ to the many other parties who live in, work in and look after the interests of the area such as – Tourism Bodies, Fisheries, Navigation, Local Authorities, Environmental Bodies (EPA), Water Framework Directive & River Basin Management Planners etc.

Since the Preliminary Options Appraisal Report (POAR) is at the stage of identifying an ‘emerging preferred option’ in a process of continuing options appraisal, a detailed design is not yet developed. The general principles, and some examples, on which community benefit would be developed for the WSP are set out in Section 10 of the POAR. Irish Water, in asking if it has taken all relevant factors into account in reaching the findings outlined in the POAR, would also welcome views on the community gain proposals in Section 10.
No – CG only applies to Strategic Developments involving direct applications to An Bord Pleanála. Irish Water as a ‘public sector’ developer, operating under the Planning & Development (Strategic Infrastructure) Act 2006, has decided to consider the issue of CG as part of their application. The alternative is potentially to have CG requirements imposed by ABP as part of their planning conditions, as they see fit.
Irrespective of the solution for the project, CG is part of the planning process for Strategic Infrastructure Development (SID). Since the Emerging Preferred Option (Parteen Basin) has the potential to give rise to the greatest breadth and variety of community gain it is being used for CG illustrative and consultative purposes – this is in accordance with ‘best practice impact assessment’. The Desalination Option potentially benefits a much smaller area than Parteen.
Community gain arising from employment, temporary and long term, is related to the breakdown of spend under the capital project. Recognising that a detailed design is not yet developed, it must be emphasized that the likely spend on labour; construction plant and material can only be provisionally estimated at this stage. Breakdown of this spend by region will also be strongly influenced, both by the procurement process, and by regional capacity factors in the supply chain.


Based on a ‘Estimated’ Capital Spend of €700m – €800m over a 4 year period and making due allowances for potential Plant, Labour and Material which may be sourced ‘Outside Ireland’, typical high level estimates of ‘spend per county’ or ‘spend per region’ associated with the ‘Construction Phase’ of the WSP Project, if based on abstraction at Parteen Basin, would typically be as outlined below.


County / Region Capital Spend per ‘County’ Construction Peak Labour (jobs and value) Construction Plant Construction Material Indirect Jobs
Limerick & Clare €57m 112 (€23m) €17m €17m AccommodationCateringLeisureTransport etc.
Tipperary €124m 247 (€38m) €28m €58m
Midlands €117m 233 (€53m) €22m €42m
Kildare & Dublin €133m 264 (€38m) €45m €50m
Rest of Ireland €73m 170 (€30m) €24m €19m
Total (rounded) €504m 1026 (€182m) €136m €186m


Long term jobs in the operational phase, associated with Pipeline Operation & Maintenance Activities and a ‘Data & Scientific Centre’ co-located near the proposed abstraction facility are ‘typically’ as outlined below:-


Activity Permanent Contract
Water Treatment Plant 15 5
Pipeline Operations & Maintenance Centre 3 50
Data, Research & Scientific Centre / WFD 3 25


If a similar approach was adopted for the Desalination Option, high-level estimated figures are outlined below:


County / Region Capital Spend per ‘County’ Construction Peak Labour (jobs and value) Construction Plant Construction Material Indirect Jobs
Kildare / Wicklow €63m 117 (€24m) €15m €23m AccommodationCateringLeisureTransport etc.
Dublin (Dun Laoghaire / Rathdown & South Dublin) €55m 117 (€24m) €15m €16m
Dublin (Fingal) €55m 117 (€24m) €15m €16m
Meath €63m 117 (€24m) €15m €23m
Rest of Ireland €105m 112 (€23m) €30m €52m
Total (rounded) €341m 580 (€119m) €90m €130m


Long term jobs in the operational phase for the Desalination Plant, associated with Pipeline Operation & Maintenance Activities, are outlined below:


Activity Permanent Contract
Water Treatment Plant 15 5
Pipeline Operations & Maintenance Centre 3 10


The Preliminary Options Appraisal Report (POAR) has identified an emerging preferred water abstraction location (Parteen Basin), and a least constrained corridor (2km width) for a water transfer pipeline. However, site selection and design of abstraction, pumping and water treatment infrastructure have not yet taken place, and an actual pipeline route and design in detail within the corridor have yet to be developed. A fully reliable budget estimate of cost can only be developed when this work is largely complete, anticipated late (Q4) 2016.


The regional profile of capital expenditure will depend on many factors, including the contract procurement process (including competitive tendering), and the capacity of the sub-supply delivery chain to meet the projected requirements in any given region.


For these reasons, the foregoing estimates (for Labour, Plant and Materials), and the proportioning factors for likely regional spend, are preliminary at this stage, and are subject to on-going revision as work progresses. However, the estimates have been included in this phase of public consultation to illustrate potential / typical ‘on-the-ground’ impacts of Capital Expenditure in order to enable a better understanding of this aspect of IW’s proposed Community Gain approach (see Section 10 of POAR).

A package of community benefits would normally be supported by a committed Benefit Fund. A typical Community Benefit Fund would involve:


  • A ‘Once-Off’ Lump-Sum payment (normally based on a percentage of the Capital Expenditure)
  • A ‘Variable’ Annual Payment based on some measureable variable component of the scheme e.g. a payment could be linked to water throughput (this would probably be more appropriate to an inland surface water source, than for desalination)


The disbursement of the initial once-off lump sum (and disbursement in future years) would normally be targeted at a number of specific ‘community related’ areas, such as Tourism, Environmental projects, Training & Education, Sport and Leisure.

The trustees of the fund will decide on ‘projects for implementation’ based on their merits. For example all counties in the catchment area benefit from:


  • Robust and resilient water supplies
  • Jobs created from availability of water
  • Construction jobs
  • Operational jobs (permanent / contract / part-time)


Communities around the lake from which water is being abstracted also have a case for on-going consideration of benefits specifically linked to the water body.

IW would propose to fund CG initiatives through a once-off contribution to a ‘Fund’ (typically based on a percentage of Capital Cost) and through additional annual contributions linked to some measureable on-going component of the scheme (e.g. water throughput). These proposed funding arrangements are based on best international practice. It is anticipated that the Fund would be managed by Trustees drawn from a wide range of representative stakeholder groupings and administered for example by relevant Local Authorities.
Irish Water will work with stakeholders to develop meaningful and proportionate proposals, aiming to propose a Community Benefit package to An Bord Pleanála at the time of submitting a Planning Application. An Bord Pleanála, if it decides to grant planning permission, and if it is minded to attach conditions on community gain, would be likely to have regard to proposals which enjoyed consensus support in affected communities, in framing any such conditions.
Irish Water is responsible for the development of the WSP project which secures reliable and robust water supplies for over 40% of Ireland’s population resident in its Eastern & Midlands Region. In order to secure satisfactory planning consent, it is necessary to ensure that the scheme is in full compliance with all requirements of the planning process. CG is one of those requirements. All costs incurred in securing satisfactory planning consent, including CG costs, will be evaluated by the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER), the economic regulator for Irish Water, for potential inclusion in domestic / non-domestic customer tariffs.
Community benefit has been applied in Ireland, in the UK and internationally on rail and motorway projects, on renewable energy, energy transmission and waste management projects.
Options Working Paper
The outcome of the consultation process on the Project Need Report is documented in Appendix A of the Options Working Paper. The main themes which were raised in submissions are tabulated below.



  • General comments
  • Water Supply Network Resilience and connectivity
  • Water supply
  • Demographics
  • Planning and Balanced Regional Development
Project Road Map
Economic Development
Water Conservation

  • Leakage
  • Other conservation initiatives

  • The Benefitting corridor
Water Demand

  • Water demand projections (domestic and non-domestic)
  • Peak and Headroom

  • Water Framework Directive
  • Biodiversity
  • Climate Change
Tourism and Amenity

  • Desalination
  • Groundwater
  • Alternatives


Submissions ranged widely in their view of the Project Need. Some argued that the project was not needed, that demographic projections and industrial water demands did not justify it, and that conservation measures along with use of alternative sources at smaller scale would meet the requirement.


Others were of the view that the Project Need had been soundly established using a rigorous methodology, that the economic development of Ireland as a whole depended upon addressing the tightening margin of supply over demand in the Eastern and Midlands Region. They also emphasized that reliability and security of water supply is critical in economic planning, and that problems of source vulnerability and supply resilience were for the first time being comprehensively addressed in the Eastern and Midlands Region, and from a national perspective.


Concerns were also expressed in some submissions on the challenges of achieving balance in regional development in Ireland.


There were a number of submissions that were specifically concerned with potential options being examined and alternative options that could be considered. It is important to note, that this consultation phase was focussed on the need for the Project and the Project Road Map, and was not at the stage of options being considered. However, we have noted the issues raised here for completeness, and they will be responded to in the report as far as possible at this early stage of the process.

The achievement of minimum environmental impact commences with good positional design from the very beginning. For as long as choice exists in siting infrastructure, there should be a preference to avoid areas where people live, or Special Areas of Conservation, or areas of important habitat, or Cultural Heritage etc. These are all examples of constraints, and where these areas can be mapped across a Study Area, they become areas of avoidance-by-design, while choice permits. Constraints Mapping accordingly represents layers of areas to be avoided where possible, leaving ‘white space’, or unconstrained areas to be considered in siting water supply infrastructure such as a pipeline, or a pumping station, or a water treatment plant.
The 10 Options examined during the SEA over the 2007-2011 period, in the context of a then assessed water demand of 350 Mld at the year 2040, were:-

Option A – Lough Ree (Direct): A constant abstraction design concept. It involves abstraction and treatment on the eastern shore of Lough Ree, followed by a 104km treated water transfer, in a configuration which could supply treated water to other communities on route.

Option B – Lough Derg (Direct): The same design concept to option A, but involving abstraction and treatment on the eastern shore of Lough Derg and a longer distance of 122km for treated water transfer, capable of supplying other communities on route.

Option C – Parteen Basin (Direct): The same design concept to option B, but involving a longer distance of 158km for treated water transfer, capable of supplying other communities on route.

Option D – Lough Ree and Lough Derg: A hybrid design concept, drawing from both lake sources in a phased development, capable of supplying other communities on route, with an anticipated 10 years separation between the phases. The initial transfer pipeline would be 104km in length from Lough Ree; the second would be 67km from Lough Derg, joining the first approximately midway along the Phase 1 route.

Option E – Lough Ree and Storage: A variable abstraction design concept. It involves abstraction on the eastern shore of Lough Ree working in combination with bog storage to allow excess winter water storage, for use in drier summer periods. Storage would be provided at a “cutaway bog” site near Rochfortbridge . The site would include raw water storage, water treatment and pumping facilities. Storage facilities would accommodate up to 4 months average supply requirements. Overall raw water and treated water transfer pipelines are approx. 104km in length, in a configuration which could supply treated water to Midlands Local Authorities east of Rochfortbridge.

Option F1 – Lough Derg and Storage (Rochfortbridge): The same design concept to option E, but involving abstraction on the eastern shore of Lough Derg in combination with bog storage at Rochfortbridge. Storage facilities would accommodate up to 2 months average supply requirements. Overall raw water and treated water transfer pipelines are approx. 127km in length, in a configuration which could supply treated water to Midlands Local Authorities east of Rochfortbridge.

Option F2 – Lough Derg and Storage (Garryhinch): The same design concept to option E, but involving abstraction on the eastern shore of Lough Derg in combination with bog storage at Garryhinch . Storage facilities would accommodate up to 2 months average supply requirements. Overall raw water and treated water transfer pipelines are approx. 122km in length, in a configuration which could supply treated water to Midlands Local Authorities east of Portarlington.

Option G – Lough Ree with Impoundment: A similar design concept to option E, but using a new impoundment in a suitable valley in the Dublin / Wicklow mountains to support variable abstraction from Lough Ree. Water treatment is provided beyond impoundment, meaning this option has no capability for supplying treated water to locations on route. This option would involve transfer pipework of approx. 113km in length.

Option H – Desalination: Abstraction of sea water from the Irish Sea in north Fingal, desalination of sea water through a Reverse Osmosis (RO) desalination plant, pumping of treated water to Ballycoolin reservoirs via 25 km pipelines, capable of supplying treated water to locations on route, and discharge of brine (from the treatment process) back into the Irish Sea.

Option I – Groundwater: Abstraction of water from groundwater sources within an 80km radius of Dublin, with piping of groundwater to suitable locations for treatment and introduction into public water supply systems, meaning this option has no capability for supplying treated water to locations between source and treatment.

Option J – Conjunctive use of the River Barrow: A design concept involving the “conjunctive use” of the River Barrow with the Upper Liffey. The option envisages abstractions of water from the Barrow when sustainable quantities may be available (Winter / Spring) and combining these abstractions with variable abstractions from Pollaphuca. This combined abstraction would increase the overall supply to Ballymore Eustace Water Treatment Plant above what is sustainably available from Pollaphuca on its own. This configuration would mean this option has no capability for supplying treated water to locations on route.

The Options Working Paper outlines in detail why six (6) of the ten (10) options are not being brought forward into the EIA & Planning Process. The key findings from the review and evaluation process are summarised as follows:-

  • Options I (Groundwater) and J (Barrow-Liffey Conjunctive use) are unable to sustainably provide the projected water supply requirements of the Water Supply Area
  • Options A, D, E, and G (all sourcing water from Lough Ree) are unable to sustainably provide the projected water supply requirements of the Water Supply Area whilst remaining in compliance with ‘The Regulations and Guidelines for the Control of the River Shannon’
  • Options A, D, E, and G (all sourcing water from Lough Ree) are not taken forward on the basis of the Habitats Directive Assessment (HDA) review based on both the precautionary principle (in favour of exclusion) and the likelihood of significant impacts on European Designated Sites
Desalination will be fully and thoroughly evaluated as an option in the next stages of option appraisal, under the same criteria as are applied to the other options, and on a like-for-like basis. The ‘best option’, will emerge as ‘best’, across all the assessment criteria taken collectively.
The Options selected for study in the SEA process were selected to meet the fundamental requirements of supplying the required quantities of water, in circumstances where it could be sustainably abstracted, without significant impact on people or the environment, and on a timescale, and capacity scale, which decisively addresses both the water demand profile, and the need to bring resilience to the whole water supply system in the Eastern and Midlands Region including the Dublin Area, which was the primary focus area in the 2007-2011 period.


These fundamental requirements are not technology related, and have not changed, but the perspective of Irish Water is now national. The Water Supply Project is now being viewed on a regional basis in the interest of solving water supply difficulties in both the Eastern (Dublin Water Supply Area) and a Benefiting Corridor running through the Midlands.


The Options Working Paper has examined and modelled the prospects of optimising the existing storage and assets at Poulaphuca on the Liffey system, used in conjunction with a new source to optimise overall system resilience.

Potential New Supply Options are evaluated relative to each other, based on an agreed set of assessment criteria. The consultation on the Options Working Paper provides for consultation on Irish Water’s proposed assessment criteria. Choosing the best or preferred option based on a single criterion is relatively easy, but where there are several criteria, the selection methodology becomes more difficult. Multi Criteria Analysis is a method of evaluation which allows several criteria to be considered simultaneously, in reaching a decision on a preferred option which is optimum across all of them.
Over the 2005 – 2011 period, two phases of high level Strategic Environmental Assessments (SEA) were carried out, initially on 3 and later on 10 potential new water supply options for meeting demand in the Dublin Water Supply Area.

The options considered were centred on the River Shannon, Groundwater, Desalination of seawater, and possible conjunctive use of the Rivers Barrow and Liffey. The project, which is now being managed by Irish Water (since January 2014), has moved into the Planning Phase and requires an Environmental Impact Assessment and Appropriate Assessment on a preferred option, where the reasonable alternatives considered are also presented.

It is necessary to review the original appraisal (2005-2011) of these alternatives in the SEA, in light of developments in the interim period since the SEA Statement and Plan were published in 2011 , and in the light of submissions made in public and stakeholder consultation at the time and since then.

The Options Working Paper marks a point of independent review of options. It validates a commencement point for detailed appraisal of technically viable reasonable alternatives and it explains how it is proposed to make decisions later in the planning process, on a preferred option. It keeps an open mind on the outcome of the fieldwork surveys and investigative studies which the SEA process deemed necessary for decision making (during the subsequent planning process).

The Options Working Paper explains the process and methodology which will be followed by Irish Water for the purpose of selecting a preferred option which will then be submitted to An Bord Pleanála for planning consent (submission expected late 2017).

In the SEA (2007-2011) , the 10 options were assessed on a Multi Criteria Analysis (MCA) basis involving:

(a)     Technical attributes of the Source

(b)     Technical attributes of the required Infrastructure

(c)     Environmental impacts assessed under SEA

(d)     Habitats Directive impacts

(e)     Economics

(f)     Socio-Economic impacts


There was also a risk appraisal of the options carried out at the time.

The top four options under the MCA assessments (2011) were:-

(i)      Option F2 (Lough Derg with Storage)

(ii)     Option B (Lough Derg Direct)

(iii)     Option C (Parteen Basin Direct)

(iv)    Option H (Desalination)


Under the Risk Appraisal process (2011), the top four options based on information available at that time were:-

(i)      Option F2 (Lough Derg with Storage)

(ii)     Option C (Parteen Basin Direct)

(iii)     Option B (Lough Derg Direct)

(iv)    Option H (Desalination)


Six options were eliminated for one or a combination of the following reasons;

  • Insufficient availability of water in a sustainable manner
  • Failure to comply with the Habitats Directive


In the updated review process which is outlined in the Options Working Paper, the same four options (B, C, F2 and H) have been ‘re-validated’. As part of a Planning Application, it is necessary to prepare an Environmental Impact Assessment and Appropriate Assessment on a preferred option, where the reasonable alternatives considered are also presented. The preferred option will emerge from these four options (with the remaining 3 options assessed as reasonable alternatives for the EIA process).

River catchments nearer Dublin, such as the Boyne, Liffey and Barrow are already significantly developed for water supply. In the case of the Liffey, more than 40% of its annual flow is committed to water supply. Abstractions from the Boyne and the Barrow already supply Drogheda, East Meath and Kildare.

The Options Working Paper concludes that groundwater alone cannot meet the water supply demand profile and also the important requirement to provide resilience to existing water sources in the Eastern and Midlands Water Supply Area. It does not rule out the later development of groundwater in association with another primary option, but a potential aquifer would have to be investigated, and tested, and an abstraction from it would have to be proven not to involve significant impact on terrestrial ecosystems dependent upon that groundwater.

The timescale to properly model this on a regional scale and then to sustainably develop a potential aquifer with wellfields, as well as acquire water rights and put in place land use measures that would protect water quality, would be prolonged, and well beyond the timescale within which a solution is required.

The conclusion drawn in the Options Working Paper is that groundwater has a potential role, but as a later proven, sustainable supplementary source, capable of augmenting a primary supply from an alternative source, and this is the proper context of groundwater, in time and scale.

Rainfall patterns in Ireland are seasonal. They are geographically variable and also occur in a way that does not match the distribution of population density.

For an impounding reservoir to yield 330 Mld it would have to be capable of storing several millions of cubic metres, it would be smaller than, but comparable in scale to, Poulaphuca reservoir in Wicklow which supplies over 50% of Dublin’s water. Elevated sites that are potentially suitable as storage reservoirs in the east of Ireland tend also to be at the upper end of surface water catchments, where it is more challenging to ensure they can be both managed safely against flood risks, and also to fill in dry winters.

New impounding reservoirs have been less frequently permitted in Ireland, the UK and in Europe over the past two decades. The planning and legal risks and challenges in securing permission to create new impounding reservoirs in elevated and environmentally sensitive sites have grown, alongside developing EU environmental legislation, and such risks must be borne in mind where a solution is required to be in place by the early 2020’s (latest). Such options were previously considered in earlier optioneering (1996-2000) prior to the 2005-2011) Strategic Environmental Assessments.

In the SEA of 2007-2011, the 10 options were proposed and assessed on a Multi Criteria Analysis (MCA) basis involving:

(a)        Technical attributes of the Source

(b)        Technical attributes of the required Infrastructure

(c)        Environmental impacts assessed under SEA

(d)        Habitats Directive impacts

(e)        Economics

(f)         Socioeconomic impacts


At that time, the four options which are now being taken forward for further examination as part of the EIS and Planning process were identified by Dublin City Council (project sponsors at the time) and their advisers, as likely to be capable of supplying the necessary quantities of water, in a technically viable manner which (subject to further ‘on the ground’ investigations) could be sustainable environmentally.

Irish Water and its independent advisers have reviewed the (2007-2011) SEA methodology and approach, they have taken into account updated data and legal developments in the scope of the Habitats Directive, and have endorsed the options which emerged at that time, as being suitable for further examination during the planning phase (now underway).

The primary requirement of a suitable new source of drinking water (for the Eastern and Midlands Region), is that it can provide the necessary quantities of water for water supply, in drought conditions of a particular representative severity, without significant environmental impact on the aquatic ecosystem of the new source water body. Source yield assessment, is the process of testing that capability, using historic water level and water flow records in combination with hydrological modelling which can simulate the impacts of abstraction under varying representative climatic conditions including future climate change conditions.
During the SEA process, all options were appraised at a strategic level on data available at that time involving technical, environmental, socio-economic and economic assessment criteria.


The options assessed had different challenges and degrees of merit, and a provisionally preferred option was identified, involving abstraction from Lough Derg (combined with raw water storage and treatment at Garryhinch in the Midlands). It was recognised at the time that this preference was indeed provisional only, and that investigative studies (water quality modelling and subsoil surveys) would be required to assess conditions in Lough Derg and Garryhinch in detail before this option could be confirmed as the preferred option for planning purposes. That work has been underway for over a year (as of 2016).

The updated review process in the Options Working Paper involved:

  • a desktop review of the SEA options appraisal process, taking cognisance of developments in the intervening period, to reconfirm those options previously considered as reasonable alternatives;
  • examining the list of reasonable alternatives against stakeholder feedback during public consultations and subsequently up to the present time;
  • assessment of the yield of the sources, which is their ability to provide the necessary quantities of water
  • compliance of the proposed abstraction with the Habitats Directive; and
  • endorsing the options proposed for further study; Options B (Lough Derg Direct), C (Parteen Basin Direct), F2 (Lough Derg with Storage) and H (Desalination) were confirmed as technically viable alternatives for more detailed investigation.
It is emphasized that while three of the four options being taken forward for examination are based on the Shannon as the ‘water source’, the fourth option, desalination, will be examined on an equal footing and no decision in relation to the options has been made at this stage.
The options appraisal methodology will rely primarily on a relative assessment of the impacts on human beings and the environment to identify a recommended option from the 4 currently identified reasonable alternatives. The first step in this relative assessment will be to identify constrained areas – i.e. areas within which infrastructure, as far as possible, should not be located and which are to be avoided where alternative siting and routing options permit.


Mapping of constrained areas will be undertaken within the entire study area. This approach allows constrained areas to be identified at an early stage in the infrastructure siting process. These constrained areas will be identified under the following headings:

  • Ecology
  • Cultural Heritage
  • Geology
  • Water
  • Landscape
  • Sensitive Receptors


The assessment criteria which will then be applicable to the assessment of options relative to each other are outlined as follows under the following headings Environmental and Technical / Risk:



  • Biodiversity, Flora and Fauna
  • Fisheries
  • Air/Climatic Factors
  • Material Assets (Energy)
  • Sustainability
  • Cultural Heritage (including Architecture & Archaeology)
  • Landscape & Visual
  • Material Assets (Land use)
  • Tourism
  • Population
  • Human Health
  • Soils, Geology and Hydrogeology


Technical / Risk

  • Safety
  • Planning Policy
  • Engineering and Design
  • Capital and Operating Costs
  • Sustainability
  • Risk


Each option will be assessed by relevant technical / risk and environmental specialists under each of these criteria. These assessments will be used to identify the differentiating sub-criteria that will distinguish the emerging preferred options.

A new source of water supply is needed for Dublin, principally for the following reasons:

  • With the population increasing and economy growing, particularly in the Dublin Water Supply Area, there will be ever greater pressure on the existing water supplies
  • To eliminate the realistic potential of increased water outages in the coming years
  • Water Conservation and leakage reduction, alone, will not deliver the level of water savings needed to meet future needs
  • One of the key considerations for Foreign Direct Investment considering locating in Ireland is the suitability of the current and proposed future water supply – sufficient water must be sustainably available and supplies must be secure and resilient.
  • As a country we have failed, particularly in Dublin, to invest adequately in our water infrastructure for over a half a century, and we now must act to provide for the needs of this and future generations
  • The need to undertake this project was first established in 1996; Irish Water, which has a statutory responsibility to plan for future water supply needs, has now taken on responsibility for seeing the project through to fruition.
  • Water shortages can result in high disruption costs for businesses and domestic water users – recent outages in Dublin (2010-2014) typically cost the Irish economy in excess of €78m per day.
  • Continuing to ‘patch up’ the existing system is more expensive than providing a comprehensive new supply and will still not provide a secure and resilient water supply fit for future demands.
The main finding of the need report is that a new water supply, of 215Mld by 2050, is required for the Dublin Water Supply Area in order to meet the future needs of the region.

The Need report established that:

  •  With the population increasing and economy growing, particularly in the Dublin Water Supply Area, there will be ever greater pressure on water supplies. The population of the Dublin region is forecast to grow by 0.63 million, from 1.52 million in 2011 (the last Census) to 2.15 million people in 2050. This will result in an increase in domestic water demand alone of 70Mld by 2050.
  • One of the key considerations for Foreign Direct Investment considering locating in Ireland (or expanding their existing interests) is the suitability of the current and planned future water supply. Future growth in key industrial areas and other non-domestic areas is projected to increase water demand from 126Mld in 2011 to 281Mld by 2050, an increase of 155 Mld, which includes a Strategic Industrial allowance
  • As a country we have failed to invest adequately in our water infrastructure for over a half a century, consequently, we must act now to provide for the needs of this and future generations, including elimination of the realistic potential for increased water outages in the coming years. Disruption to the water supply in the Dublin Region (similar to the 3 significant outages over the past 4 years) has been estimated to cost Ireland in excess of € 78 million per day.
  • Addressing leaks alone will not provide the extra water needed for the future. Continuing to ‘patch up’ the existing system is more expensive in the long run than providing a comprehensive new supply and will still not provide a water supply fit for future demands. There is limited ‘resilience’ in the current system which is the ability to withstand a disruption from an ordinary incident such as an algal bloom in one of the reservoirs or a major pipe burst. If one source of supply is temporarily unavailable, the lack of resilience (and connectivity) in the system means it is not possible to transfer water from an alternative supply to meet the needs of the affected area.
  • At present there is limited “headroom” (or spare water supply capacity) deployable across the Dublin Region, which increases the likelihood of disruption if incidents occur. A headroom and outage figure of 15% – 17.5% is recommended.
  • The pipeline route from the new source location and the Terminal Reservoir also provides the potential for a resilient, reliable water source to be supplied to communities adjacent to such a route.
Irish Water undertook the Review of the Need to update / validate previous, assessments (economic forecasts / population projections etc in order to ensure that, in all the changed circumstances since water demand was last estimated, a new supply of water is still required.

The last demand projections were carried out over 5 years ago based on the 2006 census (population). They have since been updated to reflect the 2011 census.

Economic forecasts have changed considerably from 2006 – 2009 and these have also now been factored into the projections.
Personal water consumption levels have been identified from domestic meter readings based on meters installed to date (in the Dublin Region).

The updated data (outlined in the Project Need Report) shows clearly that there is a real and pressing need for an improved and enhanced water supply for Dublin.

The solution will involve water conservation, tackling water losses (both on the household side and on the main network), maximising the output from existing sources and provision of a new source of supply for Dublin of 215 Mld by 2050.

The Economist Report (Appendix B of the Project Need Report) concludes that:

“short-term reprieve to the water supply network is likely to occur due to increased water conservation, but the evidence suggests this is not likely to eliminate the need for an expansion of supply over the medium- to long term.”

It is important to appreciate that the new supply requirement is to both provide for an increased but minimised water demand, and to increase resilience of, and diversify risk from over dependence on, existing sources.

Approximately 215 million litres per day (Megalitres per day = million litres per day = Mld) are needed by 2050 for the Dublin Region. When a benefiting corridor defined by the water pipeline / spine between the new source (e.g. Shannon) and the termination point reservoir in Dublin is included, the total overall estimated demand is 330Mld at 2050

Taking account of water conservation measures, tackling water losses (both on the household side and on the mains network), maximising the output from existing Dublin Region sources, and the need to provide source resilience, the overall Phase 1 capacity requirement is projected at 267Mld by 2021, rising to 330Mld by 2050.

Existing Situation
The Dublin Region is currently operating on a ‘knife- edge’ supply – demand balance.

The sum total of the capacity of the existing Dublin Region sources comes to 623 Mld in 2014, and it is proposed to increase this to 658Mld by 2026 (using the existing abstraction from the Barrow River in Kildare).

It must be appreciated that availing of the full current output of 623 Mld from all sources, assumes that water conditions, treatment facilities, pumping plant and transfer pipework are all functioning as they should, at full capacity, but frequently because of the age and infirmity of the infrastructure this is not the case. Peak demand has risen to 560 Mld per day in recent years, and Industrial Development Agency (Ireland) predicts a water requirement of 35-50Mld for foreseeable new projects within five to seven years.
Furthermore if a treatment facility is out of service or a major arterial main (pipe) suffers an outage, the ‘surplus’ water at a treatment plant cannot be effectively transferred around the problem area.

This lack of resilience (ability to withstand disruption) and connectivity (ability to transfer water around the network) gives rise to the constant risk of significant disruption, arising from quite ordinary events which should be considered ‘foreseeable operational risks’ that would be normally manageable in a water supply system of a European capital aspiring to modern standards of service.

There have been three such disruption events in the past four years which could have been prevented if the system had the appropriate capacity and resilience in place.

A new source of water supply is needed for Dublin, principally for the following reasons:

  • To meet increased demand resulting from population and economic growth
  • To provide a ‘strategic reserve’ for meeting FDI demand requirements
  • To meet peak demand requirements at various stages during the year
  • To provide operational ‘headroom’ and allowances for ‘outages’
  • To provide resilience and diversification of ‘source risk’
Projections of climate change for Ireland suggest that average temperatures will rise by between 1oC and 3oC by 2100, compared to the 1961-2000 average.

Winters are expected to become wetter with climate change, while summers are expected to become drier. Water usage patterns in summer will mirror this change.

Under more pessimistic greenhouse gas emission scenarios, rainfall in the East of Ireland may decrease by as much as 20 percent in summer by the 2050s. With such a reduction in rainfall, reductions in streamflow can be expected to be greater than 20%. This brings the risk of a gradual erosion of the yield of existing water sources (in Dublin), or their ability to continue to supply the water currently being produced.

The national picture varies considerably from county to county and city to city. Personal individual consumption levels throughout the country are broadly similar to Dublin. But leakage levels are higher (up to 50%).

Supplies nationally are met from 856 treatment plants and Irish water propose to rationalise these wherever possible in order to minimise maintenance time and expense and improve the overall level of supply.

Existing Sources of Sustainable Production are outlined in the table below:


Water Treatment Plant Production Capacity / Deployable Output (Ml/d)
2011 2015 2022 2026
Ballymore Eustace 310 310 310 310
Leixlip 148 215 215 215
Vartry 65 65 75 75
Ballyboden 12 12 12 12
Srowland 0 13 13 38
Bog of the Ring 3 3 3 3
Rathangan Wellfield 3 3 3 3
Monasterevin Wellfield 2 2 2 2
Total 543 623 633 658
No, the current levels of service will be maintained until the new source is on stream. However, it is part of the fundamental need for the new supply project that, in its absence, water supply in the Dublin area, and in the Midlands, is not resilient to international standards of service. In the interim period, Irish Water is planning to improve connectivity in the network, to address areas of elevated risk of disruption, and to minimise water losses, both on the watermain network, and on the household-side, to create the margin to accommodate population increase, new housing, and economic growth until a new source is on stream. The important role of that new source, in diversifying pollution risk on existing sources (and climate change risk) will remain unfulfilled until the new source is commissioned
Resilience of a water supply system is its ability to withstand disruption due to a pollution incident, or if part of a treatment plant is unavailable, or if a key section of arterial main (pipe) suffers outage due to a burst. A resilient water supply system for a city the size of Dublin should have available sufficient quantities of treated, deployable (usable) water supplies from a number of sources to resolve shortages arising from unforeseen disruption.

Not only must water be available from those sources still in service during a time of disruption, but it must be effectively deployable (usable) around the supply network, even under the interim, exceptional flow conditions. Supply resilience is not a function of greater water abstraction, or building ever larger numbers of treatment plants, it is about diversification of water sources and connectivity. It is a feature of good infrastructural planning for any water, power, gas or telecommunications utility, because customers expect continuity of service even through, and around, reasonably foreseeable levels of disruption. It is a requirement which must be met, independently of any progress on water conservation or on success in reducing Unaccounted for Water, because loss of a key water source, treatment plant element, or aqueduct (pipe) remains a separate risk to be managed, even as the drive to minimise water demand continues.

The population in the Water Supply Area serving Dublin is forecast to rise from 1.52m at the 2011 Census, to between 2.02m and 2.15m by 2050. The additional population of a potential Benefiting Corridor around a transfer pipeline, if it were routed across the Midlands, would rise from a figure of 0.53m at 2011, to approximately 0.68m by 2050.
The population data used in the reports come from professional demographers (AOS Planning) based on Central Statistics Office (CSO) national spatial strategies and regional planning guidelines. The projections are primarily based on the CSO Projections from a base year at Census 2011. –They are based on the most relevant CSO projections for the Planning Regions out to 2031, and then by way of providing Regional ‘best fits’ in respect of the CSO’s State projections to 2046 and finally, to projecting them forward to 2050.
The High and Low Planning Scenarios refer to a position where different regions of the country, including Dublin itself, grow in a balanced way in accordance with the National Spatial Strategy. A Most Likely Scenario will set out the water demand profile of greatest probability, given what is known at the present time. However, investment decisions must also allow for a situation in which higher than predicted demands occur. Therefore the “High Water Demand” scenario addresses that possibility.

The Economist expressed the view that:- “ in strategic planning, Irish Water should seek abstraction planning for a higher demand than would be assumed in any central forecast in order to accommodate foreseeable potential demand. In evaluating demand for water, all regions in Ireland must have adequate strategic reserves to accommodate potential demand for the needs of indigenous and multinational firms as well as to accommodate the expansion of the tourism and agri sectors.”

Water Demand Assessment
Existing water supply and demand data is prepared by Dublin City Council (in conjunction with Fingal Co Co) on a monthly basis on behalf of all the Local Authorities in the Dublin Region Water Supply Area.

Forecasts of future demand is based on data and forecasts prepared by ‘specialists’ AOS Planning (Demographics), Indecon (Economic Growth) and Jacobs Tobin (Water Engineers). The contents of their data are contained in Appendices A, B and C respectively of Irish Water’s Project Need Report.

Yes – the projections take the metering and charging into account. Demand projections assume the following for each of the three scenarios considered:

  • A reduction of 5% will be achieved by 2016 in the most likely planning scenario, with a further 5% reduction on scenario 1(b) – Planned Growth – Low.
  • The planned growth (high) scenario assumes no effective reduction in personal water consumption.
Non domestic demand growth is forecast to grow from 126.5 mega litres per day at 2013 to 181.1 million litres per day at 2050. An additional Strategic Provision for water intensive Foreign Direct Investment of 50 million litres per day at 2026, rising to 100 million litres per day at 2041 is also proposed. Water for industry will be required in early 2020’s..
Industrial efficiencies have already been taken into account resulting from reduced levels of water intensity in industrial demand. The new supply will still be needed even with the efficiencies in place.
Yes. Tackling leakage is a very important part of minimising water demand, but even reducing leakage levels from the current estimated 33%, to 20%, a level which took over two decades to achieve in the UK, would recover less than one fifth of the projected water need, at a significant fraction of the project cost and take three times as long as the Water Supply Project to achieve the savings.

Irish Water plan to reduce leakage levels to 25% by 2026, and drive it progressively downwards below 20%. This is an ambitious target and is certainly part of the solution, but would still not result in a water supply fit to meet future demands. It must also be remembered that addressing leakage alone will not increase the resilience of the water supply system. Resilience is the ability of the supply system to react to a disruptive event which may result in either that supply being reduced or shut off for a certain period. Planning for a resilient water supply must take place, independently of any progress on water conservation or on success in reducing leakage, because loss of a key water source, treatment plant element, or aqueduct, remains a separate risk to be managed, even as the drive to minimise water demand continues.

There are two components to leakage, household leakage and watermain network leakage. The early data from the water metering programme clearly shows that between 5% and 6% of household’s exhibit significant household-side leakage. Irish Water, working together with customers, aims to drive household leakage down and these efforts have been factored into the water demand review.

Irish Water’s First Fix Leak Repair Scheme (first leak fixed for free) assists customers who have leakage in the service pipe from the property boundary to a point one metre from the dwelling.
The EU Reference Document on Best Practices in Leakage Management ( Jan 2015) states that:- “Leak-free distribution systems are not a realisable technical or economic objective, and a low level of leakage cannot be avoided, even in the best operated systems where water suppliers pay a lot of attention to leakage management.”

Irish Water has in place a set of Water Conservation Strategies which will endeavour to reduce leakage to 25% by 2026 and to 20% by 2040. These include:

  • Leak Detection & Repair Activities in all of the 31 Local Authorities
  • Development & Optimisation of Pressure Management Activities in each of the 3 Regions
  • Development of National and Regional Strategies for Water Conservation Activities
  • Development of Regional Find and Fix Support Teams, to provide additional leak detection and repair resources where required
  • Identification & replacement of poorly performing watermains across the country
  • Creation of a National Telemetry & Monitoring Centre


Each successive step in leakage reduction is progressively more costly. Irish Water are working to define a sustainable economic level of leakage, a point where the social and economic cost of recovering leakage becomes greater than securing supply from a new source. It is necessary to find the right balance so that the combined cost burden on customers, of leakage minimisation and securing supplies from a new source, is minimised.

Unaccounted for Water (UFW) is the volume of treated water passed in to supply that cannot be accounted for as legitimate water use, and is lost from the system. Leaks in old water distribution networks are inevitable as all joints are susceptible to seepage and pipes can become damaged over time. The Water Demand projections acknowledge that allowance must be made for it in estimates of future demand, even as strenuous efforts are made, and ambitious targets are set, to minimise it.

UFW is a significant problem not just for Dublin, but for the whole country. Leakage from the water networks averages over 40% across the country, twice the level of that in the UK, where the assets are comparable but have been more intensively managed over the last 20 years. Unaccounted for Water in the Dublin Water Supply Area is estimated in the Water Demand Review at 33% and the Review notes that significant investment will be needed over several years to bring Ireland toward international leakage norms.

Leakage reduction over a short timeframe is very ambitious in technical terms and would require a significant level of asset replacement and funding. It took in excess of two decades for leakage levels in the UK to be reduced by one third, to 20%.

Evidence from watermain rehabilitation and household-side leakage work over the past decade in Dublin suggests that recovery of 1 mega litre per day costs in the order of €0.75m on household leakage and €8m-€9m for watermain network rehabilitation. Watermain rehabilitation work is therefore very expensive, and becomes progressively more so, as leakage levels are reduced. In short it would take more time and would cost more (per litre) to effect ongoing ‘patch ups’ than it would to provide a long term sustainable water supply.

Headroom is defined as the difference between the amount of water a utility has available to supply (water available for use) and the volume of water it expects to introduce into its network (distribution input) to meet demand.
Headroom is important to cater for uncertainties in the overall supply-demand balance and to meet agreed levels of service. Typical international figures for headroom allowances range from 5% – 10% (and tend toward the higher side) of the accounted for water (water available for use by the customer).

There have been three significant events in the Dublin Region over the past four years which have highlighted how precarious the ‘demand – supply’ position is:-

  • the exceptional water demand at the time of severe cold weather in the winter of 2010,
  • the algal bloom experienced on the Vartry Reservoir in May of 2013, and
  • the quality problems experienced with the incoming water supply at the Ballymore Eustace plant in late October 2013.
Typical international figures for headroom allowances range from 5% – 10%. Headroom can be refined over time as knowledge of the system improves and provisions against contingencies can be more accurately calculated.

A provision against ‘outage’, or loss of service of a key element of treatment capacity, or a key trunk main delivering treated water to the supply network, represents an additional allowance incorporated into the overall ‘headroom’ allowance. This is to cover instances where the achievable and deliverable output from treatment facilities falls below normal output. This can be for a variety of reasons, such as asset failures, planned maintenance, diminished throughput due to variability in the source water coming into a treatment plant etc. Typical international figures for outage allowance range from 5% – 7.5% of AFW. Total Headroom and Outage allowances range from 15% to 17.5%

The National benefits of putting in place a new water supply for the Dublin Region are national economic growth, support for job creation, wealth creation, improved standards of service and quality of life.
No, this a national strategic project that supports balanced regional development, benefits Dublin, the benefiting corridor, tourism, agriculture and has economic spin-offs for all the Irish population.

The entire population of the Water Supply Area, and all sectors of the economy, would benefit through augmenting and diversifying water supply sources and strengthening their connectivity to provide a reliable, secure water supply. Because of the importance of the Dublin Region in the national economy, the benefits also extend nationally.

In the Project Need Report, the Dublin Water Supply Area is defined by the existing water supply network of the Dublin metropolitan area serving an estimated 1,52m people (2011 Census). Split by county, it serves:

  • Dublin – 98.33% of total County by population
  • Meath – 12.27% of total County by population
  • Kildare – 82.19% of total County by population
  • Wicklow – 50.40% of total County by population

The Benefiting Corridor between a new water source and a Terminal Reservoir near Dublin, will depend on, and will be defined by, that source. It will be a larger Benefiting Corridor for a water supply from the River Shannon, than it would be for a coastal Desalination option, for example.

For the purpose of establishing the maximum possible supply requirement, a Benefiting Corridor from the west of the Dublin Water Supply Area covering an adjoining area of the Midlands as far west as the Shannon was examined.