CLARE County Councillors have expressed concern about the lack of a definite commitment to provide an economic dividend to the county if the controversial Lough Derg water abstraction proceeds.
Irish Water is planning to proceed with its €1.3 billion project to pipe water from the Parteen Basin to Dublin using a 170 kilometre pipeline.
Irish Water Resources Specialist, Angela Ryan said she would bring the request for a community dividend back to Irish Water to see if it can provide any more information on this proposal.
She stated that any proposed economic dividend for Clare would be considered by Irish Water.
While acknowledging the Shannon Scheme provided economic benefits for the country, Councillor Johnny Flynn said it posed major financial difficulties for Clare County Council, which wasn’t provided with any funding to deal with health issues for 5,200 workers.
Councillor Flynn noted Clare County Council was so badly hit by increased costs it went into a dissolution in 1942.
He expressed concern there is a history of resources being taken from the West to the East with negative financial implications for the local authority.
While councillor Flynn felt there is merit in improving water supplies in the entire East and Midlands region, he stressed there has to be an economic dividend for Clare is water is taken from Lough Derg.
Councillor Flynn has previously proposed Irish Water should place a one cent levy on every litre of water planned for extraction from Lough Derg to meet the growing needs of the Midlands and Dublin region.
With in excess of 330 litres of water proposed to be piped from Lough Derg to facilitate The Water Supply Project Eastern and Midlands Region, Councillor Flynn believes proceeds from the new levy should be channelled into providing new wastewater facilities in rural towns and villages in Clare and Tipperary.
The Ennis-based civil engineer has called for this potential annual revenue of €10 million shared equally between Clare and Tipperary to be ring-fenced for rural areas outside the Limerick Metropolitan area, as defined in the Southern Regional Spatial and Economic Strategy.
In his submission to the 25-year National Water Resources Plan (NWRP) being drawn up by Irish Water, Councillor Flynn proposed the setting up of a fund that over the 100-year cycle of the proposed water abstraction project could unlock €1 billion to provide local government with funds for new infrastructure in rural Clare and Tipperary.
“I hope Irish Water take the levy proposal on board in finalising and adopting the framework plan of the NWRP, and when they are completing four regional water resources plans for the north west; south west, south east, and eastern and Midlands region including Dublin,” he said.
Speaking at a recent council meeting, Councillor Pat Hayes said there was very little information in the Irish Water presentation about water abstraction, particularly in relation to its impact on tourism and the environment.
He expressed concern about Irish Water’s plan to reduce water leakage to 20% by 2033 considering up to 40% of water could be leaking on the way up to Dublin before this is achieved, which isn’t financially sustainable. He said the average in the EU is between 8 to 10% leakage.
“It is a long time since Dublin City Council came down here and told us what they were doing, they were going to pay us big money and then it went off in different angles.
“If there is an impact on tourism and the environment, what is the payback for Clare County Council and East Clare?
“The idea is you are pumping water to expand other towns and grow others in Wexford and Drogheda.
“We are providing the resource for other areas. There isn’t much payback for us here, we are being penalised in terms of planning and restrictions on population growth.”
Ms Ryan said historically leakage is very high in Ireland with leakage of up to 60% in some cases, which wasn’t acceptable and has to be substantially reduced.
Stating reducing leakage is a priority, she outlined the first step is to reduce leakage down to 20% by 2033.