Water Supply Project, critical to securing Ireland’s economic growth and housing needs for the future, gets Government green light

One of the largest infrastructure projects in the history of the State will ensure sustainable water supplies for half of the population up to 2050 and beyond

June 25, 2024 – The delivery of the Water Supply Project, Eastern and Midlands Region is critical to sustainable economic growth, enabling housing delivery and attracting investment to support Ireland’s growing population for the next 30 years and beyond.

The project, which today received Cabinet approval in principle under the Infrastructure Guidelines, can now proceed to planning. It will be one of the largest and most important infrastructure projects in the history of the State and has the capacity to ensure secure sustainable water supplies for up to 50% of the population.

The project will develop a new, climate-resilient, long-term water source to meet the  demands of a growing population and economy, including the need for housing and mitigating against the impacts of climate change. It will create a water spine across the country which will ensure an urban level of service to towns and regions from Tipperary to Dublin and Carlow to Drogheda.

Commenting after the Government decision, Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien TD said: “I am very glad to have received Government approval today for the Water Supply project to proceed at Approval Gate 1 under the Infrastructure Guidelines. What this means is that Úisce Éireann can now progress the project through the remaining Infrastructure Guidelines approval gates including the submission of a planning application to An Bord Pleanála in 2025. This marks an important first step in what is a multi-billion euro project which will ensure a sustainable water supply for our country both now and into the future.  

“Not only that, but this project will enable much needed housing delivery. One of the key recommendations in the recently published Housing Commission report was to ‘take urgent action to ensure delivery of the critical Water Supply Project for the Eastern and Midlands Region” and with today’s Cabinet approval we are doing just that and showing our commitment to this project and to the future generations.” 

Uisce Éireann CEO, Niall Gleeson said: “The Water Supply Project is critical for the future of our country. By delivering a secure, climate-proof supply of water for up to 50% of the State’s population it will facilitate increased demand for housing, enable sustainable economic growth and support competitiveness across the Region. Crucially it will also help us meet the challenges of climate change by diversifying our water supplies to ensure safe, resilient water services for communities across the region, and reduce the vulnerability to drought and other extreme weather events.”

This essential project will provide Dublin, Meath, Kildare and Wicklow with a resilient, safe, secure water supply. It will also create a treated water supply ‘spine’ across the country with the capacity to serve communities along the route in Newport, Moneygall and Borrisokane in North Tipperary, Dunkerrin and Tullamore in Offaly, and Mullingar in Westmeath. In addition, supplies currently serving Dublin can be redirected back to Louth, Meath, Kildare, Carlow and Wicklow, providing security of supply to homes and businesses, which will support growth and regional development. 

The Water Supply Project Eastern and Midlands Region proposes to abstract a maximum of 2% of the average flow of the River Shannon at Parteen Basin downstream of Lough Derg. Treated water will then be piped 170km through counties Tipperary, Offaly and Kildare to a termination point reservoir at Peamount in County Dublin, connecting into the Greater Dublin network.

Currently water supply in the Eastern and Midlands region faces a number of serious challenges, notably the over-reliance on the River Liffey to supply 1.7 million people in the Greater Dublin Area. This dependence on the Liffey (and the two main treatment plants of Ballymore Eustace and Leixlip) results in a serious vulnerability to risks such as prolonged drought and/or contamination.  With forecasts showing that the region will need 34% more water by 2044 than is available today, this combination of a growing water supply deficit and lack of supply resilience is not sustainable.  

The potential solutions to the water supply need in the Eastern and Midlands Region have been under review for over 25 years. Hundreds of options have been considered. The proposal approved by Cabinet today is the culmination of extensive and detailed appraisal of potential solutions and alternatives including technical, engineering, environmental, financial and economic assessments in addition to widespread stakeholder consultation. To date, the project team has engaged with over 1,500 stakeholders and Uisce Éireann is committed to continuing engagement with all stakeholders including further consultation with landowners and local communities as the project progresses. The project has also been examined in the context of the outcomes of Uisce Éireann’s first National Water Resources Plan and associated Regional Water Resource Plans and it remains the best solution to address the majority of the water supply needs of the Eastern and Midlands region. Following Cabinet approval today Uisce Eireann will submit a Strategic Infrastructure Development application to An Bord Pleanála next year with construction estimated to take 4-5 years.