Wednesday, 4 October 2006
Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government
Question 326: To ask the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the situation in regard to levels of lead in drinking water supplies; the progress which has been made in eliminating same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31120/06]
Question 335: To ask the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he has satisfied himself that all drinking water throughout the country is of an adequately high standard in terms of quality and pollutants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31233/06]
Question 337: To ask the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his plans to meet in full, current and future domestic water supply needs with particular reference to purification, storage capacity and continuity of supply; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31235/06]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 326, 335 and 337 together.
Drinking water quality in public and private water supplies is monitored and reported on by the Environmental Protection Agency. The most recent EPA report The Quality of Drinking Water in Ireland — A Report for the Year 2004 is available in the Oireachtas Library and confirms the fundamentally good quality of drinking water supplies in Ireland. The report shows an overall compliance rate with all relevant parameters, including lead, of 96.4%.
This Government has invested very considerable resources in this area. Some €3.7 billion will be spent under the National Development Plan 2000-2006 on the provision of water services infrastructure. Substantial increases in water treatment and storage capacity, both for domestic and non-domestic use, are being achieved as a result of this investment. Schemes completed in the period 1997 to June 2006 have produced additional drinking water treatment capacity equivalent to the needs of a population of over one million. The increase in storage capacity over the same period was sufficient to meet the requirements of a population of over 1.5 million. Overall, the resources being put in place by my Department should continue to ensure that the coverage and quality of the national water supply infrastructure is adequate to meet current and anticipated demands.
The European Communities (Drinking Water) Regulations 2000, which transposed Council Directive 98/83/EC, reduced the parametric value for lead in drinking water to 10 micrograms per litre. A December 2013 deadline is specified for achieving compliance with this standard, with an interim value of 25 micrograms per litre required since the end of 2003. Compliance with the interim standard is generally achievable through appropriate treatment at water treatment plants. I have also provided funding in the Water Services Investment Programme 2005-2007 for a study of the implications of the 2013 lead standard for public water supply systems. The study is being led by Dublin City Council and is currently in progress.
Management of public drinking water supplies is generally the responsibility of the local authorities, which have a range of instruments and measures available to them to produce and conserve sufficient stocks to meet anticipated needs and to ensure quality standards. In addition, my Department co-ordinates and finances a major programme of investment in improved infrastructure, active leakage control, telemetry and rehabilitation of water mains. Details of such projects are set out in the Water Services Investment Programme 2005-2007 which is also available in the Oireachtas Library.
The schemes included in the Programme are derived mainly from regular assessments of needs undertaken by local authorities, at my Department's request, as an input to the overall strategy for meeting necessary water supply and treatment requirements. Sanitary authorities have been requested to carry out new assessments in 2006 and these will inform project selection in the next phase of the Water Services Investment Programme.