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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

€300 million investment in Ireland’s water supply network

The Irish Minister for the Environment, John Gormley, has announced that €300 million will be invested in replacing defective water mains over the next three years and water metering and domestic charges will also be introduced

The Minister will bring proposals to Government in the coming weeks for the installation of water meters in 1.1 million homes connected to the public water mains supply, in line with the Fianna Fáil-Green Party revised programme agreed last October.

His department is examining various options to ensure delivery of metering in the most cost-effective manner, but it is expected that the rollout of meters will begin next year, after which householders will be charged on the basis of their water usage.

“Water metering will be an absolutely essential element in ensuring that we get a water system that works, that is fair and that is sustainable in the long term,” Mr Gormley said, adding that it would also allow for much better network management.

“International experience would indicate that there can be significant water savings arising from the installation of meters.

“A recent report for the British government found average savings of 16 per cent per household accrued from the installation of meters.”

Following a review of the water investment programme here, valued at €500 million per annum, one of the priorities is to address the ongoing issue of “unaccounted for water” and ensure value for money in the provision of water and sewage treatment plants.

“We are playing a huge game of catch-up . . . following decades of under-investment,” Mr Gormley said. “The difficulties experienced by thousands of householders across the country show clearly that there are still huge issues . . . that need to be addressed. Our approach to drinking water in Ireland has been unsustainable, and we must change that approach, from the investment and management of our network to how we as households value the resource that comes out of our tap,” he said.

“In particular, we have a real problem with unaccounted-for water, with losses ranging from 16.8 per cent to 58.6 per cent, depending on what part of the country you are in. This is completely unacceptable and must be urgently addressed,” the Minister added.

Over the last seven years, €140 million was spent on water conservation. The new programme is described as a significant ramping up of this investment, with €300 million worth of water conservation contracts to commence over the coming three years.

It will involve putting water management systems, such as telemetry, in place to monitor water use and losses throughout the supply networks, fixing leaks and replacing defective pipes – many of them old – where repair is no longer an economic option.

Specific details of the revised programme for water services investment from 2010 to 2012 will be published towards the end of next month, and it is expected to provide for “intensive investment” in mains rehabilitation as a key priority.

One of the problems is that Ireland’s low density and population distribution means that the water network is so extensive, with over 20,000km of pipes. Barcelona, with three times the population of the Dublin region, has just over half the length of its network.

Some €4.6 billion has been invested in water services since 2000, of which €2.8 billion has been spent on sewage treatment plants and €1.8 billion on water supply. This was supplemented by spending of some €900 million by local authorities from their own resources.

Source: The Irish Times

Friday, January 8, 2010

Dublin City Council loses waste case

The High Court in Dublin has ruled that Dublin City Council has abused its dominant position in the household waste collection market in a bid to remove rival private operators.

The Irish Times (22 December) stated that High Court judge Mr Justice Liam McKechnie quashed a variation to the Dublin region waste management plan whereby only the councils, or contractors appointed by them, could collect household waste.

The case arose from a challenge by private waste management firms Panda Waste Service, and Greenstar, which took separate cases against the councils claiming the variation to the plan was an abuse of their dominant position and contrary to competition law.

According to the Irish Times, Panda had claimed this was an attempt to stop private sector collection of waste and amounted to a fundamental change in the organisation of the market so as to “effectively remove competition”.

Mr Justice McKechnie told the High Court that if a private firm collects waste then they own it and can determine where the waste goes.

The Greenstar decision has yet to be decided.

Dublin is broken down into four local authority areas; Dublin City Council, Fingal County Council, South Dublin County Council and Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council.

At the moment, Dublin City Council, which is the dominant player, is solely responsible for collecting residential waste, be it residual waste or green bin waste.

Household waste charges were introduced in Dublin in 2001 but individuals do not pay council tax. Waste contractors and the council can collect from specific clusters of routes.

It is thought that Panda was the first waste firm to enter the household waste collection market in Dublin in 2006.

Dublin City Council has a long-term contract with US-based waste firm Covanta to provide it with 300,000 tonnes of waste per year for the Poolbeg incinerator. If the council does not meet this target, it will have to compensate the owners.

A source close to the case told MRW: “The council wanted to control where the waste went to justify the waste incinerator. The council wanted to effectively tender its own routes and award itself its own routes to control where the waste goes.”

In a further twist to the case, recent media reports suggest that a stand off is developing between Irish Environment Minister John Gormley and Dublin City Council, with the council refusing to disclose details of a contract it signed for the proposed incinerator at Poolbeg in the capital. Gormley has indicated that he will appoint an inspector to investigate the agreement between the council and the developers of the incinerator.

Source: Materials Recycling Week

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