The Water Supply Project, Eastern and Midlands Region (WSP) will be the first major comprehensive upgrade to Ireland’s "New Source" infrastructure in the region in over 60 years.
WSP has been in development since the mid-1990s, originally under Dublin City Council as project sponsor on behalf of the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government (DEHLG), and under Irish Water Management since January 2014. In 1996, the Greater Dublin Water Supply Strategic Study (GDWSSS) was published. This identified the requirement for a new supply source for the metropolitan area of Dublin and surrounding areas. The need for this new source was again confirmed in a review of the GDWSSS in 2000.
In 2014, Irish Water assumed responsibility for the provision of public water services from 34 Local Authorities, and expanded the project scope to cover the entire Eastern and Midlands Region, which includes Dublin and comprises over 40% of the nation’s population.
Why do we need the WSP?
Irish Water has been tasked with taking action to ensure our water supply meets future demand. Ireland has failed to adequately invest in its water infrastructure for over half a century. This action is now vital and urgent.
Our water infrastructure is already struggling to meet the current need which is why there have been several significant and costly outages in the region in recent times.
We know that raw water sources for the Greater Dublin Area will be at capacity by 2026, and we know that water saved from fixing leaks is not enough to meet future demand. The rest of the Eastern and Midlands Region faces similar challenges.
To achieve a truly sustainable water supply we must take bigger steps and apply the sort of forward thinking our ancestors showed over 150 years ago when they developed schemes such as the Vartry Water Supply Scheme. If Ireland is to have the capacity for future domestic and economic development, we must do likewise.
In the preparation of the recently published Consultation Submissions Report, Irish Water has reviewed all relevant new data available since the original Project Need Report was published in March 2015. This takes full account of the Census 2016 data, National Planning Framework, the forthcoming draft Irish Water National Water Resources Plan, and the recently published River Basin Management Plan. The forecasted population and economic growth within the region will generate a demand for an additional 330 million litres of water per day by 2050. Irish Water’s review has confirmed definitively that existing water supply sources do not have the capacity or resilience to meet future requirements of homes and businesses in the Dublin area and the rest of the Eastern and Midlands region.
This is a long-term strategic investment that will bring economic benefits to the whole country, and growth in the region, supporting job creation, improved standards of service and quality of life.
How did Irish Water choose the Preferred Scheme?
After confirming the need for the project, Irish Water embarked on a four stage process to identify a suitable new source of water supply. Extensive studies and research have been undertaken to identify and assess all possible supply options to meet the future water supply requirements of the Eastern and Midlands Region. In total ten options were identified and examined in detail.
These ten options were thoroughly assessed on a demographic, technical, geographic, environmental and economic basis, and four options were identified as suitable for further assessment, three of which were based on River Shannon/Lough Derg with the fourth being desalination.
Following further research and public consultation these four were reduced to two – Abstraction of water from Parteen Basin on the lower River Shannon, with water treatment nearby or desalination from the Irish Sea.
After further research and public consultation, the Parteen Basin option was identified as the preferred scheme because via its pipeline route to Dublin it delivers the widest benefit to the greatest number of people with the least environmental impact and in the most cost efficient manner. Desalination would largely serve Dublin only and would not address the objectives of Irish Water’s 25-year plan to provide a high quality, long-term and sustainable supply to the Eastern and Midlands Region.