Abstraction at Parteen Basin emerging as preferred option for new major water source for the Eastern and Midlands regions

  • Abstraction at Parteen Basin has least environmental impact of the four options under consideration
  • 10 week period of public consultation on the ‘Preliminary Options Appraisal Report’ now underway

Irish Water has today published a report that identifies the ‘Emerging Preferred Option’ for developing a new source of drinking water supply for the Eastern and Midlands Region. Over 40% of Ireland’s population lives in this region and work has been on-going for 8 years to identify a new and sustainable water source to enable the region to grow into the future.

Over the past two years Irish Water, through extensive research and two phases of public consultation, has considered the need for a new source of water supply for the Eastern and Midlands Region and has identified four potential technically viable options for that new source. A Preliminary Options Appraisal Report, published today and based on an extensive assessment process applied to the four potential options, has found two of the four options remain as potential viable solutions. They are abstraction of water from the lower Shannon at Parteen Basin in Tipperary or desalination of water from the Irish Sea in Dublin. Of these two, the report identifies abstraction of water at Parteen Basin as Irish Water’s emerging preferred option.

Abstraction at Parteen Basin has the least environmental impact of the four options under consideration. It can avail of existing ‘hydro-power’ infrastructure which ensures that the proposed water abstraction can be implemented within existing normal operating water levels and with no impact on statutory flow requirements in the Lower Shannon, meaning that there is very limited impact on the lake. Abstraction from hydro-power facilities is common practice worldwide and the Parteen Basin option will use only a small fraction (approximately 2%) of ‘hydro-power’ water that would otherwise have been used for power generation and then discharged to sea. Importantly, the proposed new scheme also creates multiple opportunities to supply treated water to communities in the vicinity of Parteen Basin and along a route corridor from Parteen Basin to Dublin. Counties to be supplied include Clare, Tipperary, Offaly, Laois, Westmeath, Kildare, Meath and Dublin.

The Preliminary Options Appraisal Report concludes that desalination, as the only other potentially viable option at this stage of the project, is much less suitable than the Parteen Basin option, due primarily to higher costs, being a Dublin-centric solution, and being a less environmentally friendly option with a considerably higher energy requirement, chemical usage and brine discharge.

The Water Supply Project is now undergoing rigorous environmental assessment to ensure that all possible relevant factors are examined in reaching a final decision on the best option. As part of that process, a 10 week period of public consultation on the ‘Preliminary Options Appraisal Report’ is now taking place which concludes on 4 February 2016. Any considerations arising from this third consultation process will be evaluated as part of the determination of the final choice of a new water supply for the Eastern and Midlands Region.

John Tierney, Managing Director of Irish Water explained the importance of this project for Ireland’s future economic growth. “The existing water supply sources for the Eastern and Midlands Regions do not have the capacity or resilience to meet demand for an additional 330 million litres of water per day which increased population and economic growth will generate by 2050.” “A new source must be identified”, he said. “This project is not simply about finding a solution for Dublin’s future water supply, it is also about ensuring that the entire country can thrive by facilitating growth in the Eastern and Midlands where 40% of our population lives”, John Tierney explained. “Irish Water is working to deliver the most efficient and cost-effective solution to this challenge which can be implemented with minimal environmental impact. Parteen Basin, the emerging preferred option, can deliver a sustainable water supply with the least environmental impact while benefiting the widest number of domestic and commercial water customers throughout the region”, John Tierney said.

Copies of the Preliminary Options Appraisal Report for the Water Supply Project Eastern and Midlands Region can be downloaded from the project website www.watersupplyproject.ie. The site also provides FAQ’s, covering a wide range of project related topics and also details on the previous phases of this project.

Water Supply Project Eastern and Midlands Region – Preliminary Options Appraisal Report

Summary of findings

Why the Shannon?

The Shannon is the most suitable source of new supply for a number of reasons;

  • It provides treated water, delivered in a way which brings the greatest availability and economic advantages to the widest group of communities in Irish Water’s Eastern and Midlands Region. Towns and communities along the proposed pipeline route through the Eastern and Midlands Region will gain a secure water supply to meet future domestic, commercial and industrial water requirements and therefore the opportunity to grow and boost their economies. This option will help to ensure that all consumers will have a reliable and sustainable water supply with minimal risk of outages.
  • It enables the delivery of a more efficient and up to date water supply infrastructure by facilitating the development of fewer and more modern water treatment plants to replace the numerous small, inefficient and outdated plants currently operating across the region.
  • It is less expensive by a factor of 1.5, with a lower carbon footprint than desalination which is the only other remaining technically viable option under consideration.

Why Parteen Basin?

The Parteen Basin is the most suitable location on the River Shannon because:

  • It has, by far, the least environmental impact of the three Shannon options which have been under consideration. It is the closest location to the river mouth with most of the water having already flowed through the Shannon. By contrast, the other two Shannon options based on North East Lough Derg abstraction (one with storage at Garryhinch), involve abstraction much further up-river, carry greater risk of environmental impact and also risk transfer of potentially environmentally damaging species such as Asian clams and zebra mussels into other river catchments;
  • The pipeline from Parteen will serve treated water to more locations, towns and communities en route from the Shannon to Dublin than any other option;
  • Abstraction of water at Parteen is already highly regulated because of the presence of the existing hydro-power plant. The proposed abstraction of water is, in essence, an abstraction of water from the hydro-power scheme.
  • Abstraction of water from hydro-electric power schemes is commonly employed worldwide to enable environmentally sustainable availability of drinking water.

Why not Desalination?

Desalination is emerging from the assessment process, carried out to date, as the only other viable option but is much less suitable than the Parteen Basin option for a number of reasons;

  • It is at least 1.5 times as expensive regarding cost of water delivered
  • It is a Dublin-centric solution so it does not deliver the widespread benefits to towns and communities throughout the Eastern and Midlands Region.
  • It is a less environmentally friendly option than the Parteen Basin option because the provision of desalinated water requires long-term high energy inputs in the overall treatment process leading to a greater carbon footprint. It also uses numerous chemicals and consequently represents a greater potential environmental threat.

Community Gain

As with all strategic infrastructure projects, the planning process requires that due consideration of community gain is undertaken by the planning applicant. In addition to improved and sustainable domestic and commercial water supplies, the communities along the route of the pipeline are also in a position to gain some specific additional benefits. Many products and services needed during construction will be sourced from local businesses; the construction phase of the project will provide a range of employment opportunities for local people; Irish Water, working with Local Authorities and other relevant bodies, propose to provide financial support for training schemes to enable as many local people as possible to work on the project and Irish Water also propose to support the development of environmental education and protection initiatives, sports and leisure facilities. Of the two remaining water supply options under consideration, the Emerging Preferred Option (Parteen Basin) has the potential to give rise to the greatest breadth and variety of community gain as its 165km pipeline crosses several counties en-route between the Shannon and Dublin. The Desalination Option benefits a much smaller area. See further information on Community Gain under separate cover.

Consultation Process

Details of a ten week public consultation process now under way inviting views on the content and findings of the Report are available on www.watersupplyproject.ie. National and local media advertisements will also advise of opportunities to participate.

The feedback on this upcoming consultation will be included as part of the final phase of research and assessment on the options which will conclude in mid-2016 with the publication of the Final Options Appraisal Report. At that point a ‘final’ preferred option will be put forward for public consultation before proceeding to the remaining phases of the planning process in 2017 which will involve consulting on the ‘Scope of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)’ and submission of the planning application to An Bord Pleanála for their independent adjudication. An Bord Pleanála will undertake all necessary statutory consultations including Oral Hearings where everyone will again be entitled to have their say.

WSP Briefing Note on Community Gain & Pipeline Corridor Landowner Considerations – Download

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