The Water Forum welcomes the publication this week, of the Framework for the Future Delivery of Water Services. This represents a welcome and important step forward in the development of Irish Water as the Single Publicly Owned Utility with full responsibility for delivering water and wastewater services in Ireland.
From January 2023, Irish Water through collaboration with Local Authorities will have direct management responsibility for all water services staff and this should provide for more streamlined, effective and efficient water and wastewater service provision. They are now in a position to recruit the necessary expertise to deliver on ambitious Capital Investment Plans to provide water and wastewater services that meets Ireland’s 21st century economic and social needs without negatively impacting on the natural environment.
The Framework was developed through detailed and long-term negotiations facilitated by the Workplace Relations Commission, Irish Water, Department of Housing Local Government and Heritage and Local Government Management Association and the County and City Managers Association and Trade Unions. Currently, approximately 3,000 water services staff who operate Irish Water plants and service responses are employed by the Local Authorities. This new framework gives these employees the option to become full-time Irish Water personnel, or to seek alternative employment within the Local Authority structure and if neither of these options are possible there is an opportunity to avail of voluntary redundancy. Such options will provide assurances to Local Authority personnel but also ensures continuity of service and the retention of skilled staff at Irish Water.
With responsibility for a budget of €8.4 billion from 2020 to 2024 for Capital Investments and Water Services it is important that Irish Water have full control of their operating systems. Recent water treatment failures at Ballymore Eustace and in Gorey illustrated the need for direct lines of accountability and responsibility for quality control and practice at Water Treatment Plants that are best achieved in a single utility with sole responsibility for water supply management.
With a rapidly increasing population, demand for water services will continue to grow, climate change is impacting on water availability and there are still considerable deficits in Ireland’s water infrastructure. Irish Water have an ambitious programme of work with the ongoing implementation of the National Water Resources Plan and the development of Regional Water Resources Plans, National Leakage Reduction Targets and the need to address the deficits in wastewater services that are causing pollution of over 208 water bodies.
A trusted and respected Publicly Owned National Water Utility is essential to deliver the water and wastewater services needed and deserved by the Irish population and the Water Forum hopes that Irish Water is now in a stronger position to address these needs more effectively and urgently.