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Dublin's pipes are so ancient and damaged that for every litre of expensive treated water put into them, around 50% is wasted through leaks. Dublin's water problems are very serious, but they are not due to a lack of raw water: they are due to the state of the pipes. Some of Dublin's pipes are already 160 years old - their useful life is 80-100 years.

Irish Water replaces around 0.3% of the pipes per year - and it has publicly confirmed that it has no plan to significantly increase that. At that rate, some pipes will not be touched for another 330 years. This mains replacement rate is far below international best practice and is entirely inappropriate for Dublin where the pipes have suffered decades and decades of neglect. 

An overhaul of Dublin's water pipes is a necessary evil: it will be disruptive, but it can be delayed no longer. The Shannon Pipeline would not negate this: no matter how much water is pumped into a broken supply system, it will be a broken supply system until it is replaced. That means that Dublin will continue to have an unreliable water supply with unexpected bursts and outages (particularly during cold snaps and dry spells), water that can be brown in colour and high levels of chlorine to offset the risks of contamination due to the state of the pipes themselves.

Irish Water's own data proves that, if Dublin's pipes are replaced at a rate in line with international best practice, the volumes of water that would be available at Dubliners' taps (instead of leaking into the ground) would leave it with a very large spare capacity of water over and above "average demand" every single day - and it would finally have the reliable, resilient, high-quality water supply that it so badly needs. 

Dublin also badly needs some diversification protection. It currently gets 98% of its water supply from rivers. This is the riskiest type of drinking water. It gets less than 2% of its supply from wells. Most European capitals get a very significant proportion of their drinking water from wells. Indeed, Ireland gets more of its water from rivers than any other country in the EU.

Irish Water has allocated just EUR 34million per year for mains replacement - and it proposes to develop only a tiny fraction of the extensive groundwater that is available on Dublin's doorstep - yet it proposes to spend billions on the Shannon pipeline.


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