Major Irish supply scheme hits troubled water

Irish TD Mattie McGrath is pressing government minister responsible for water policy, Eoghan Murphy, to provide a detailed all-party briefing about the states’ biggest proposed water supply scheme after Irish Water's projections were challenged.

The TD is also backing calls for an independent inquiry into the project, Irish Water’s proposed Shannon-Dublin water pipeline scheme which has a price tag of € 1.2 billion. The scheme is intended to supply 40% of Irish households in and around the capital with water from the River Shannon.

McGrath’s campaign has been fuelled by exchanges between the water company and Switzerland-based corporate lawyer, Emma Kennedy.

In a series of reports undertaken on her own initiative Kennedy has argued that the water company has drastically over estimated future water demand in Dublin and failed to adequately address the huge leakage problem in the capital’s existing network.

Kennedy is a self-employed lawyer who advises banks and other clients on major investment decisions. She has worked on this project on a pro bono basis “in the public interest”. She has close connections to Co Tipperary and a personal interest in the future of the pipeline – its planned route goes through the family farm of her husband William.

Kennedy denies she is a Nimby. She claims Irish Water public statements about the need for the project have been ”false, or highly misleading”.

Irish Water accepts that Kennedy has raised valid issues but does not agree with her arguments and conclusions. It has issued a lengthy rebuttal of her stance. It agreed that water conservation and replacing pipes play a part but says it would cost up to €5 billion to replace the city’s defective pipes (totalling 8,000km), many of which date back to Victorian times.

Irish Water’s head of asset strategy, Sean Lafferty, said: “All the evidence to date tells us that recovery and conservation of water will not be sufficient to meet future needs due to demand growth.

“It’s important to remember that need is more than just water,” Laffey stressed. “It also includes resilience, to make sure we are not significantly dependent on a single source. Currently 83% of Dublin’s water comes from the river Liffey.”