Drinking water issues to be solved by more investment and stronger regulatory powers


Opening the Environmental Protection Agency's Water Conference in Galway on 11 June 2008, Mr Michael Kitt TD, Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, spoke of the range of measures being taken to ensure that drinking water quality in Ireland meets National and EU standards.

The Minister said that - "substantial capital investment for necessary infrastructure - along with a stricter regulatory framework - are key aspects of the overall strategy". The Minister added that 2008 has been a watershed year in terms of how the quality of drinking water supply systems is monitored and measured. Previously, the main focus was on point sampling, which only provided a snapshot of water quality.

New and more comprehensive powers given to the EPA, now allow the Agency - "to look at all aspects of supply from source to tap, including reviewing historical failures to meet E. coli or other standards" - the Minister said.

The Minister confirmed that, earlier this year, the EPA had identified 339 public water supply schemes that required profiling from catchment to consumer to determine whether the supply needed to be replaced or upgraded - or, where operational practices needed to be improved.

However, he added that a multi-agency working group (involving his Department, the EPA, the Health Services Executive and local authorities) had - "in the short time since, pinpointed the deficiencies in each case and identified solutions to them".

He said that funding for necessary upgrading works had now been allocated under his Department's Water Services Investment Programme and that local authorities would be pressing ahead urgently with the remedial measures.

Commenting on the pressures on water services caused by unprecedented social and economic growth in recent years, the Minister said that - "managing and balancing complex competing demands to ensure that clean and safe drinking water is available to sustain public health and to maintain social and economic development" - would continue to be a key challenge for local authorities.