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Fri September 21 2018

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Irish engineers call for urgent upgrades to water network

5 Jul Ireland’s water and flooding infrastructure is inadequately maintained, unable to meet peak demand and requires significant investment according to a new report by Engineers Ireland.

Delivery of critical water supply projects is required to solve water shortages says Engineers Ireland, which has published its annual review of the country’s infrastructure. However, a shortage of engineers and other construction professionals is risking the capacity to deliver critical infrastructure projects.

‘State of Ireland 2018 – A Review of Infrastructure in Ireland’ finds that just 20% of chartered engineers believe Ireland’s infrastructure is in good shape, with the water, wastewater and flooding sectors coming in for particular criticism and receiving a ‘C’ grade.

Severe water shortages faced recently by thousands of households and businesses across the Dublin, eastern and midlands regions will continue to get much worse if key water supply projects for these areas are not delivered, said Engineers Ireland director general Caroline Spillane.

Spillane said that the water supply project for the eastern and midlands region a critical piece of infrastructure that needed to be delivered as soon as possible. The scheme would source water from the Shannon.

“The Eastern and Midlands region water supply project is the first major new water source in the region for more than 60 years,” she said. “The initiative has the capacity to meet the ever-increasing domestic and commercial water needs of more than 40% of the Irish population beyond 2050. Sourcing water from the Lower River Shannon has been identified by Irish Water as the best supply option based on cost, environmental impact and the potential benefit to the wider region and Ireland as a whole. With water supply to the Dublin and midlands region in an extremely precarious state, any delays that derail this project will only worsen an already severe situation for towns and businesses in these areas.

Other findings of the report include that leakage needs to be reduced from 44% to 35% in the next five years - presenting the opportunity to save 22,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools of water per year. And a total of 118 flood relief schemes must be delivered, which would protect 95% of properties identified as high-risk.

Engineers Ireland also calls for expansion of new flood forecasting and warning systems to deal with the effects of climate change.

The annual Engineers Ireland report, an expert-led analysis of six critical sectors of the country’s infrastructure. This year’s report focuses on water/wastewater and flooding infrastructure. Insights from two advisory panels made up of 40 engineering experts, in conjunction with a survey of 1,000 chartered engineers across Ireland, form the basis for the report.

Peter Quinn, president of Engineers Ireland, said: “From clean water supplies to defending communities from flooding, engineers are to the forefront of delivering solutions for the benefit of all.  Today, our report sets out two- and five- year priority actions which are necessary to improve the performance of our infrastructure networks.  These priority recommendations need to be delivered if we are to meet current environmental, social and economic challenges.  And only sustained action in these areas will enable us to mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change.”

Minister for business, enterprise, and innovation Heather Humphreys said: “The Government is committed to investing in strategic national infrastructure that is vital to Ireland in line with our Project 2040 goals.  In order to future-proof our economy, we will continue to make significant long-term investments in areas like water, flood defences, communications, waste, transport, education, health and enterprise in urban and rural regions. These investments will facilitate a modern capital infrastructure that boosts competitiveness, creates jobs and supports sustainable Irish economic growth, with raised living standards, into the future.”

Quinn added: “The State of Ireland 2018 comes at a pivotal juncture for our country.  Over the next 20 years, our population is set to increase by one million people.  Regional development is vital but we must prepare for the majority of this population and jobs growth to be focused in urban centres.  This will mean putting in place strategic systems of sustainable infrastructure to support growth, including water and wastewater services and flood defences.

“Delivering Project Ireland 2040, including our priority actions, will be impossible without expanded industry and a larger engineering workforce. We face challenges posed by skills shortages, particularly in the Civil and Building Engineering field.  I would like to encourage more young people, especially young women, to pursue a career in engineering,” Quinn concluded.

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