Dáil Éireann - Volume 537 - 30 May, 2001
Written Answers. - Water Quality.
Mrs. Barnes Mrs. Barnes
49. Mrs. Barnes asked the Minister for the Environment and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to the criticism made by the OECD of the quality of drinking water; the plans he has to address this; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15910/01]
Mr. Dempsey Mr. Dempsey
Minister for the Environment and Local Government (Mr. Dempsey): Statutory responsibility for the provision of drinking water supplies and for upholding the prescribed quality standards rests with sanitary authorities. Stringent drinking water standards are prescribed in the European Communities (Quality of Water Intended for Human Consumption) Regulations, 1988 (S.I. No. 81 of 1988). Article 4 of these regulations places a duty on sanitary authorities to take the necessary measures to ensure that water intended for human consumption meets these standards. This duty is performed under the general supervision of the Environmental Protection Agency. The agency publishes a report annually on the quality of drinking water in Ireland and a copy of the report for 1999 is available in the Oireachtas Library. This confirms the fundamentally good quality of Irish drinking water but indicates that the greatest problems were the presence of coliforms in mainly poorly treated or  untreated private group and small private supplies
The OECD Environmental Performance Review of Ireland, published in November 2000, correctly indicates that all water supplies do not fully comply with the stringent drinking water standards and that private group water supplies are the most problematic. The review report also acknowledges that measures have been put in place, particularly under the rural water programme, to rectify the deficiencies being experienced in these supplies.
It is a matter of serious concern that any supply of drinking water is deficient in quality and, accordingly, the National Development Plan 2000-2006 provides for large-scale investment in water services. The total provision of 3.8 billion investment under the plan will include a particular focus on: the provision of additional water treatment and distribution capacity; maintenance of water quality standards; water conservation and leakage reduction, and network rehabilitation.
The rural water programme, addressing the needs of private supplies with water quality problems, will receive 533 million over the plan period.
Several initiatives are in place to enable rural water problems to be tackled in a comprehensive and co-ordinated manner in partnership with the National Federation of Group Water Schemes. New technologies for water treatment have been successfully tested and will be given widespread application. The federation, with the backing of my Department, is introducing a quality assurance scheme for the group water sector. Following a pilot project on source monitoring in 1999-2000 a new national source monitoring programme commenced in July 2000 and will run for a 12 month period. The National Rural Water Monitoring Committee is in place to advise on policy in this sector. This committee is currently examining proposals for a pilot source protection scheme to commence later this year. I am satisfied that the all reasonable measures are being taken to rectify deficiencies in our water supplies as soon as possible.
Dáil Éireann 537 Written Answers. Water Quality.