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Photograph by John Kelly

Renewed fears for Lough Derg’s future

Forecasts of even bigger water shortages in the midlands and Dublin region will require a substantial increase in the volume of water needed from Lough Derg.

Councillor Pat Burke has urged tourism, angling and business people living on the banks of Lough Derg to unite against Irish Water’s plans to increase the proposed diversion of water from the lake.

The River Shannon Protection Alliance (RSPA) estimates that up to 350 million litres of water a day could be taken from Lough Derg by 2030, if Irish Water implements previous plans from Dublin City Council to address water shortages in the region.

Irish Water had not responded to Clare Champion queries on Wednesday evening.

A recent report revealed there is a “pressing need” for an additional supply of some 330 million litres a day by 2050. Options include taking water from the River Shannon and storing it in a reservoir to be built in the midlands, or constructing desalination plants.

Dublin and the eastern region currently draw about 623 million litres of water a day, mostly from the River Liffey and most of which is treated in Ballymore Eustace (310 million litres a day) and Leixlip (215 million litres).

It is believed an additional 215 million litres a day will be needed by 2050 to serve the capital and another 115 million litres for the east and midlands. The report concludes that even if the available supply is fully used, if domestic consumption falls and if leakage is tackled, there will still be a shortfall.

If these projections are accurate, Councillor Burke warned that the future for the River Shannon looks extremely bleak, particularly if millions of litres of water are taken from the lake during periods of drought.

Councillor Burke proposed that all interested parties living along Lough Derg and the River Shannon should join forces with the River Shannon Protection Alliance (RSPA) to put forward a submission opposing these plans, during Irish Water’s current public consultation period.

Last June, representatives from IW told councillors at a Killaloe Municipal District meeting that all options, including desalination, securing an alternative supply and the Lough Derg proposal, would be considered.

Councillor Burke said it seems the Lough Derg proposal is being seriously considered once more, in view of the additional water forecasted to be required by the Dublin region.

He warned that new investments for manufacturing and other companies in the Mid-West, who require large quantities of potable water, would be put at risk if a regular supply of water could not be guaranteed.
His concerns are shared by the RSPA, which stated that any proposal to divert huge volumes of water from the River Shannon to Dublin will face the “strongest opposition to such needless, high risk, and outmoded infrastructural planning”.

In a statement to The Clare Champion, the group warned that IW’s plan would result in an increased rate of abstraction year-on-year with “disastrous consequences economically, environmentally and socially, for all of the communities along the full length of the Shannon”.

“Dublin does not now have a shortage of water and it need not do so in the future. Current supplies are more than adequate for current demand. However, Dublin City Council has been throwing away half of it through years of leak-ridden supply pipes and creaking treatment facilities, all of which have suffered from decades of neglect and under-investment.

“Injecting Shannon water into such a system would result in wastage of most of this new supply, while delivering only marginal improvement. On the other hand, reducing leakage rates to international standards would double existing supplies.

“If the day ever comes when Dublin needs additional supplies of water, there will never be a need to come to the Shannon. There are abundant supplies closer to home which can be availed of more easily and at a fraction of the cost of the current proposal,” the group claimed.

The group estimate that the Shannon abstraction would require a pipeline in excess of 100 miles in length, at a cost to taxpayers in the region of €1 billion, while they claim a range of supply options exist on Dublin’s doorstep waiting to be tapped.

“An estimated 100 million litres per day of high quality ground water is available sustainably from the Fingal/Meath/Kildare aquifer. Additional reservoirs can be built closer to Dublin.

“Desalination can provide unlimited supplies indefinitely and it is becoming more and more cost effective, with the introduction of new technologies, such as reverse osmosis,” the group stated.

The group is urging public representatives and members of the public to send submissions outlining their concerns to www.water.ie. It also said it will draft a comprehensive objection, questioning all of the assumptions and forecasting on which a new Dublin supply and the Shannon abstraction are based.

By Dan Danaher

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