Northern Ireland Water has warned that lack of funding for public sewerage infrastructure is threatening development across the province. The company has estimated it needs an extra £140 million to make all the improvements needed.
To emphasise the point, the publicly-owned company has released details of the location of nearly fifty wastewater treatment plants which are at or near capacity.
In areas where the existing public sewerage system is currently operating above design capacity, Northern Ireland Water is not currently approving new connections because of the risk of sewer flooding for existing customers.
Chief executive, Sara Venning, (pictured) said: “We’ve been warning for some time that the funding deficit we are operating with would eventually start impacting on investment and delivery.
“We started 2015 from a constrained capital expenditure position. Further public expenditure cuts mean that around £55 million of projects will not be delivered. These are projects such as new water mains or upgraded wastewater treatment plants needed to connect new houses and underpin wider economic growth. Without adequate investment, there will be further impacts on service delivery, the local economy and the environment.”
Parts of the capital as well as the towns of Dungannon, Larne, Limavady and Lurgan are among the areas where new connections are ruled out.
Funding the water company is not ringfenced and must compete with other areas of public expenditure like health and education. A Department for Infrastructure spokesperson said: "We work closely with NI Water and the Utility Regulator to determine the levels of funding required to deliver services. However, funding has to be balanced against the needs of transport and other services within the overall allocation provided to the DfI."