I thank the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government for coming into the House. There are problems with the water supply and sewerage in Ballygar but tonight I will concentrate on the water supply. Ballygar is a growing town with a primary and secondary school. People are concerned about the poor water pressure in the town and about how the emergency services would cope in the event of a fire. The scheme is number one on Galway County Council's list. It is possible to provide water without finding new sources by bringing the water from Mountbellew to Ballygar. At present the water supply serves Newbridge, a village between these two towns. That is an obvious way to extend the scheme. It is a major concern for the people in the area who have held numerous meetings about the issue. I hope the Minister will be able to tell me that the report from Galway County Council is in his Department, that it is a priority and that there will be progress on the scheme.
Water and Sewerage Schemes.
I am in the pleasant position of being able to say that there have been significant changes in this matter. Galway County Council rated Ballygar very far down the list and has now changed its mind.
The Department's water service investment programme 2005-07, published in December 2005, includes 60 major water and sewerage schemes for Galway with a value of more than €451 million. Many areas are benefiting from schemes to improve the coverage and quality of the public water supply network. In addition, towns and villages throughout the county are getting new and upgraded sewerage schemes.
When selecting individual scheme proposals for approval under the water services investment programme, my Department takes into account the priorities identified by the local authorities. That is important because the local councils should know what the priorities are. Ballygar was in eighth position on the list of water schemes submitted by Galway County Council in its 2003 assessment of infrastructural needs. The assessments of needs are the main input to the approval of new schemes by my Department for Exchequer funding. Unfortunately, because of the relatively low rating given to Ballygar by the Galway councillors at the time along with the high level of competing demand for the available funding, the scheme did not make it into subsequent phases of the water services investment programme published in the meantime.
Last March, however, my Department asked all local authorities to undertake completely new assessments of water service needs and priorities for their areas as an input into future updating of the water services investment programme. Galway County Council has submitted its assessment in which it has given Ballygar number one priority for new water schemes. This latest assessment of needs will inform the selection of new schemes for inclusion in the next phase of the water services investment programme.
I assure the Senator that I have listened carefully to what he has said and that it will also be borne in mind when the next batch of new schemes is being considered for approval. That Ballygar was not the number one priority until now is a matter for the councillors who ranked it number eight. I will take the new priority on board when making my final decision.