Water Conservation is essential to the sustainable use of our water resources. Reducing the levels of Unaccounted For Water (UFW) will help to mitigate the demand on our raw water sources (lakes, rivers etc) and reduce the risk of recontamination of water networks. It will also improve the level of service delivery and overall water quality for consumers.
Water Conservation is not a one off task but is a long term, never ending engagement requiring an on going commitment of personnel and resources. Water conservation requires governments, local authorities, industries, the agricultural sector and homeowners to get involved in the process. It has to be a combined effort to preserve our largest natural resource.
Some published reports show that UFW in many counties is typically in the range of 40 to 50 per cent. An easy question to ask is why so much water is going to waste? and what are we going to do about it? The Report by the Local Government Management Services Board Service Indicators in Local Authorities 2008 points out that UFW is NOT the same as leaking water, as there are other factors such as unauthorised use, unmetered connections, metering errors etc. Nevertheless, it is a fact that there is a considerable quantity of high quality drinking water lost from the system every day, both from the mains network and from the customer side. The new heightened awareness by the general public of the critical condition of our water network is, in the current situation, an advantage. Consumers will appreciate that extensive water conservation measures are needed, and hopefully they will also appreciate that such measures come with a price tag. The problem must be tackled on two fronts: losses in the public network and losses on the consumer side. Both issues are equally important, and both sides of the problem must be dealt with over the next few years if we are to reduce water losses to an economic level.
It has to be borne in mind that the condition and age of some of our water network is poor, some of which is cast-iron pipes originally laid in the nineteenth century!
As leaking pipes are replaced in one area, other areas, which have not previously failed, start to leak as pressure in the pipeline, normally relieved by the original leak, comes to bear on a different section of deteriorated pipe, leading to new leakage problems. So the problem goes on and on.
Expenditure under the Water Conservation programme in County Galway falls into three stages. Stage 1 puts in place water management systems; Stage 2 establishes the basis for proper leakage control; Stage 3 involves infrastructural renewal and rehabilitation.
In this regard, a very good start has been made through the National Water Conservation Programme, funded by the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government (DEHLG). Good progress has been made in carrying out Stage 1 (implementation of water management systems) and Stage 2 (active leakage control) works, though it must be said the level of progress achieved varies considerably from county to county. There is still much to be done at Stage 2, and specific annual budgets will be required to maintain active leakage control at the required level.
The real challenge now is to move on to Stage 3 of the Programme, based on the analysis and prioritisation identified in the other two stages. This involves the rehabilitation and replacement of defective supply networks, where repair has proved to be uneconomic due to the age and condition of pipes.
While the implementation of Stage 3 will fall under the remit of Irish Water, there has alrady been a success story implemenented in Tuam as part of the Big Dig and co-funding under the ERDF was of great assistance in allowing this project to successfully proceed. For more information on this project please click Tuam Water Services.