Since 1 January 2014, Irish Water has statutory responsibility for all aspects of water services planning, delivery and operation at national, regional and local levels. Irish Water, as a single publically owned national water services authority, is taking a strategic, nationwide national utility approach to asset planning and investment, and meeting customer requirements.
Irish Water’s Water Services Strategic Plan (WSSP) published in 2015 sets out the strategic objectives for its delivery of water services over 25 years up to 2040 in order to ensure the provision of clean safe drinking water, effective management of wastewater, environmental protection and support for social and economic development. The Irish Water Business Plan, Transforming Water Services in Ireland to 2021 (also published in 2015), sets out its short to medium term planning in implementing the first phase of the Water Services Strategic Plan.
On 21 May 2018, I published the Water Services Policy Statement 2018-2025, following its approval by Government. The Policy Statement gives clear direction to strategic planning and decision making on water and wastewater services in Ireland. The Policy Statement sets out a series of high-level policy objectives across the three thematic areas of Quality, Conservation, and Future Proofing, which must be pursued when planning capital investment and framing current spending plans. The Policy Statement is available on my Department’s website at the following link: www.housing.gov.ie/sites/default/files/publications/files/water_services_policy_statement_2018-2025_0.pdf.
I approved Irish Water's Strategic Funding Plan 2019-2024 on 7 November 2018, following its consideration by Government. The Strategic Funding Plan sets out Irish Water’s operational and capital expenditure plans. and is available on my Department’s website at the following link: www.housing.gov.ie/sites/default/files/publications/files/irish_water_strategic_funding_plan.pdf
Based on the Strategic Funding Plan, Irish Water’s next Capital Investment Plan for the five year period from 2020 to 2024 will set out the financial plan for capital investments to support Irish Water’s strategic objectives, as set out in the WSSP and in its Strategic Funding Plan, to deliver improvements to water services where they are needed most. Irish Water will also take account of developing subsidiary programmes within its investment plan to assist in implementing the National Planning Framework and the National Development Plan, including the Regional Spatial and Economic Strategies, as well as ongoing reviews of local authority statutory land use plans. I understand that it has brought forward proposals for a Small Towns and Villages Growth Programme which will support a number of the National Policy Objectives and National Strategic Outcomes under the National Planning Framework. The Small Towns and Villages Growth Programme is intended to provide water and wastewater growth capacity in smaller settlements which would not otherwise be provided for in Irish Water’s Investment Plan. Irish Water will work with local authorities across the country in ensuring that investment is made where it is needed most, aligned to local authority core strategies. It is in that context that investment decisions in relation to individual projects will be made.
Irish Water has established a dedicated team to deal with representations and queries from public representatives. The team can be contacted via email to email@example.com or by telephone on a dedicated number, 1890 578 578.
Separately, on 8 February this year, I announced details of the measures being funded through my Department under the Multi-annual Rural Water Programme 2019-2021. Local authorities were invited to submit their bids for the funding of schemes or projects in their functional areas and Mayo County Council included a scheme at Murrisk in its application to my Department under the new Programme.
My Department is currently considering local authorities' bids for funding allocations. An Expert Panel has been put in place to support the evaluation process. In addition to providing an expert perspective, the Panel brings independence, openness and transparency to the bids evaluation process which is done on a national prioritised basis. The Expert Panel’s membership includes Departmental, stakeholder and independent representation.
The Expert Panel has made recommendations to my Department on the suitability of schemes and projects for funding based on objective criteria which are set out in the framework document issued to local authorities when requesting proposals. I expect to conclude the consideration of the Panel's recommendations and to make an announcement of the allocations shortly.