Ireland is to increase spending on water and sewerage services to by a half in 1999, the government announced on Monday. The increase, to euros 350m (I£275m), will be spent mainly on sewage collection and treatment facilities needed to comply with the EU's 1991 urban waste water directive. Fifty major projects will begin this year and work will continue on large sewerage schemes in Dublin, Limerick, Dundalk and Galway. Additionally, around euros 49m will be spent as "leverage capital" to draw developers into building new housing to counter a sharp rise in house prices. The year's funding brings to euros 1.2bn the total invested in the sector since 1994, just under 75% of which has been co-financed by the EU's cohesion and structural funds. Ireland's environment minister Noel Dempsey nevertheless acknowledged that a "major infrastructural deficit" remained. A ministry source said that a further euros 2bn would be invested between 2000 and 2006 to improve wastewater management and the quality of both surface waters and drinking water. Ireland was warned by the European Commission last year over drinking water quality following complaints received from local environmental groups over so-called "group water schemes," in which local cooperatives groups sometimes take nitrate-rich surface water for household use.
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