I propose to take Questions Nos. 150 and 160 together.
The overall strategy for investment in water services is to ensure that the timing and scale of investment facilitates economic and other development, achieves compliance with statutory requirements and promotes environmental sustainability objectives. The main vehicle for achieving these objectives for public domestic water supplies is the multi-annual Water Services Investment Programme 2010-2013.
The Programme provides for the commencement of contracts with a value of over €800m in relation to water supply infrastructure. This includes contracts to address deficiencies in the quality of supply, to improve the overall capacity of the system and an accelerated programme of mains rehabilitation. The Programme also provides for the advancement of a further range of schemes through planning, for progression to construction in future investment cycles. The investment in water services since 2000 has led, inter alia, to an increase in drinking water treatment capacity and additional drinking water storage capacity equivalent to the needs of a population of some 1.4 million and 1.9 million, respectively.
The Programme is based on an assessment of needs for water and sewerage services, undertaken by each water services authority, which were subsequently appraised by my Department. In preparing their assessments, water services authorities were required to take into consideration key environmental and economic criteria in prioritising contracts and schemes to be progressed in their areas. The development of the Programme was strongly influenced by reports by the Environmental Protection Agency on drinking water quality, and an assessment by Forfás of the requirements of enterprise in Gateways and Hubs, as well as River Basin Management Plans. In addition, a detailed project appraisal is undertaken during the planning phase of each scheme, which determines issues such as the appropriate source of water, projected future demand and the most cost effective solution to meeting needs. There is, therefore, a strong evidence base, from technical assessments, environmental monitoring and policy studies to underpin the strategic direction of water services capital investment.
The series of reforms being advanced in the water sector by the Government is designed to support additional investment in the sector. An implementation strategy is in place to deliver on these reforms. This strategy is available on the Department’s website. As part of this strategy, a specific work-stream is considering the matters arising in the proposed transfer of the responsibility for capital programme delivery from the 34 local authorities to Irish Water. This includes the development of a capital transition plan to manage the orderly transition from current arrangements to the new arrangements to be put in place by Irish Water.
Questions Nos. 151 and 152 answered with Question No. 149.