A number of Ireland’s leading drinking water and water management experts have come together to address the drinking water challenges facing Irish consumers and to encourage that voluntary standards are used by Ireland’s drinking water suppliers. Experts from both the private and public sector were speaking today at a conference, jointly hosted by NSAI (National Standards Authority of Ireland) and Engineers Ireland, entitled, “Troubled Water: Ireland’s Drinking Water Supply.”
Conference to address Ireland’s ‘Troubled Water’
Speaking at the conference, Maurice Buckley, Chief Executive, NSAI (National Standards Authority of Ireland), said, “The water industry as a whole in Ireland is highly fragmented, with 29 county councils and over 5,500 group schemes providing Irish consumers with their drinking water. The reported drinking water health issues in Galway and Ennis have shaken public confidence in Ireland’s water supplies. It is essential that we have reliable systems and procedures in place in order to ensure that the public can have confidence in their drinking water. NSAI is urging local authorities, county councils and other water suppliers to consider implementing standards, such as ISO 24512 Drinking Water Management, as part of their service strategy. Such an approach would enable benchmarking against best international practice.”
Featured speakers include Ruth Barrington, Office of Environmental Enforcement, EPA, speaking on “Drinking Water Regulations and Guidance”; Drs. Kevin Kelleher and Una Fallon, population health, HSE, on “Water really is precious”; Peter O’Reilly, Senior Engineer, Fingal County Council and Chairman of the NSAI Water Supply and Standards Committee on “The Role of Standards in Water Supply” and Vincent Delaney, Operations Manager, on “Providing Confidence in Drinking Water Management”. Additional featured speakers include Joe Higgins from Veolia Water Ireland, Brian MacDomhnaill, NFGWS, (National Federation of Group Water Schemes), Murray Conn, WYG Engineering and Brian McKeown and Des Bartley from Dublin City Council will be speaking on a diverse range of water and water management topics.
John Power, Director General, Engineers Ireland, said, “As the representative body for over 24,000 engineers, our members in local government and engineering consultancies are involved on a day to day basis in providing safe drinking water to Ireland’s citizens. To meet our future needs, continued investment in our water infrastructure should be a priority in order to maintain this resource. This is important from a population growth, climate change and environmental management perspective. Engineers Ireland strongly believes that the highest quality and standards of engineering are vital to the provision of safe drinking water and are also in the best interests of Ireland Inc.”
Speaking at the conference, Ruth Barrington, Office of Environmental Enforcement, EPA, said “Around 240,000 monitoring tests are carried out annually on 952 public water supplies, 830 public group water schemes, 588 private group water schemes and 888 small private supplies. EPA can prosecute local authorities in case of a failure to comply with an EPA Direction in respect of a public water supply system. We have seen improvements since being granted these additional powers, for example in a decrease in E.coli exceedances. We have 14 members of our Office of Environmental Enforcement Water Enforcement Team dealing with pertinent quality and safety issues regarding our drinking water on a regional basis. However, we believe that additional investment and operational improvements are needed if we are to develop and put in place an infrastructure that will provide Ireland with clean, safe and quality drinking water for the future.”
Concluded Maurice Buckley, “Citizens assume that the water in their taps is of the highest standard and quality, it is one of their most basic expectations. Significant investment has been made by government and local authorities in ensuring our drinking water is safe, but numerous reports show that Ireland is still in danger of failing to meet the EU’s water quality standards. Effective and sustainable approaches for the management of Ireland’s drinking water supply must be based on drinking water suppliers adopting and implementing water related standards that are currently available. These standards provide and promote access to safe drinking water for Ireland’s population and I believe their use by water suppliers would increase public confidence.”