Ireland moves to clean up rural water supplies

In the face of EU legal pressure, government requires private water suppliers to take action

Private water suppliers in rural areas of Ireland will be required to draw up action programmes for improving quality if they are found to be in breach of regulatory standards, under regulations made by the environment ministry yesterday. The government hopes the move will bring it into compliance with the EU's 1988 drinking water directive. This summer, the European Commission sent a reasoned opinion, or final warning, to Ireland over this issue; the last step before launching court action. So-called group water schemes are a unique feature of Irish water supply, serving some 145,000 households out of a total of 1.1m. Many of the approximately 40% of these schemes that supply from their own sources have serious and continuing quality problems, particularly due to microbiological contamination. Under the new regulations, private water suppliers serving more than 50 people will be required to prepare an action programme for improvements in consultation with their local authority if quality problems are found. For smaller schemes found to be in breach of quality standards, existing rules requiring local authorities simply to notify suppliers of "measures which should be taken" will continue in force. Tackling group water supply quality problems remains a "tricky issue," an Irish environment ministry official told ENDS Daily, because they are and want to remain privately owned, and are opposed to the imposition of higher costs.

Follow Up:
Irish environment ministry, tel: +353 1 888 2000.

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