Regulator probes Ireland’s largest-ever water infrastructure project

The Irish government’s housing minister, Eoghan Murphy (pictured), has called on the country’s water regulator, the Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU), to review the state’s largest-ever water infrastructure project.

This is an ambition scheme to supply around 40% of the country’s population via a massive piped-abstraction plan which would see treated water from the River Shannon transported cross-country to the capital, Dublin.

The scheme, known officially as the Eastern and Midland Water Supply Project, has a price-tag of €1.3bn and would involve abstracting 330Ml of water daily from the Shannon.

If built it will require a 170km pipeline which has already triggered opposition from hundreds of farmers and landowners along the proposed route. Opponents claim a more aggressive leak-fixing strategy would obviate the need for the scheme which is due in planning next year and will require sign-off by ministers because of the public expenditure implications. Irish Water is a semi state-owned entity.

"Given the scale and importance of the Eastern and Midlands Water Supply Project, the minister has requested the CRU to undertake the review to support the decision in relation to the capital consent that will be required in the event that planning approval is obtained for the project," the Department of Housing said in a statement.

Sean Laffey, head of asset management at Irish Water, welcomed the review. “The project has undergone rigorous assessment and public consultation to date. This review will provide an independent verification of that process and, we trust, will ensure public confidence in the project.”

The company has insisted that the scheme delivers the “widest benefit to the greatest number of people, with the least environmental impact and in the most cost-effective manner.”