Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Letter to the Irish Times - Solving our water problems

The following later from me was published in the Irish Times for 5th January 2011, in response to one from Professor Eugene O'Brien on 1st January.

Madam, – The bad weather has exacerbated the current water shortages, and perhaps exasperated Prof Eugene O’Brien (January 1st). While he is correct to say the weather is not the root cause, and to point out the need to invest consistently in water infrastructure, his letter may mislead your readers by suggesting that the proposed pipeline from the Shannon will solve such problems.

There is plenty of raw water in Dublin region reservoirs at present. The water shortages are due to years of under-investment in Dublin’s local water infrastructure. There is insufficient treatment capacity and buffer storage to handle weather shocks, and the mains network leaks like a sieve – 30 per cent of treated water is currently wasted year round, compared to best practice of 5-6 per cent in some European cities.

If ever built, the €450 million pipeline from the Shannon would likely be an expensive white elephant. The promoters try to justify it by saying Dublin will need half again as much water by 2040 as it used in 2010. But this is based on Celtic Tiger era projections for population and economic growth, which surely no one believes any more. With realistic growth projections, fixing leaks, and sensible demand management measures, like water metering and charging, and harvesting of rainwater and grey water for non-drinking purposes, Dublin will not need Shannon water for the foreseeable future.

The pipeline scheme should be shelved now, and available resources invested to bring Dublin’s local water infrastructure up to international standards.

– Yours, etc,
JOC SANDERS CEng, Dromineer, Nenagh, Co Tipperary.

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