Dublin has an 'acute' need for new €1.3bn water supply project
Dublin's drinking water supply remains on a knife-edge and there is a "compelling" case to deliver a new source to avoid cut-offs and shortages.
Irish Water said the need for the €1.3bn Eastern and Midlands water supply project, where water would be pumped from the Shannon to serve the midlands and capital, "grows more acute by the day".
And it said the Liffey was at the limit of what it could supply.
Some 40pc of the river's flow was abstracted for drinking water purposes, and a dry summer could result in shortages.
Speaking at the Dail Housing Committee, Irish Water managing director Jerry Grant also said that some 20pc of all drinking water generated for the city would continue to leak due to the age and condition of the network.
The committee heard that the utility was currently monitoring 80,000 households with leaks, of which 4,000 each used the equivalent amount of water of 35 homes. As a result, neighbours were experiencing low pressure.
Plans to introduce an excess charge were under consideration by the regulator, he added.
"There's a massive problem with reducing leakage. We will bring it down to 20pc from 36pc, but we will never get it below 20pc simply because of the nature of the assets," he said.
"The average age of pipe in Dublin is 85 years. A lot of the cast iron is in better condition than asbestos and PVC pipes laid in the 1960s, 1970s and even the 1980s."
On the need for a new supply, which is being funded under an €8.5bn investment package outlined in the National Development Plan, he added: "The imperative for that project grows more acute by the day. It makes a compelling case. The Liffey provides 40pc of all water resources. It's at its sustainable limit. A dry summer would have a big impact."
Irish Water was appearing before the committee to outline plans to take full control of the network away from local authorities by 2021.
The company says there are 5,000 people employed in water services, which represents 4,300 full-time positions, which will reduce by 1,000. There will be no compulsory redundancies for council staff, with personnel reduced through retirement, normal staff turnover and deployment to other areas, it said.