Over the seven years to end 2009, my Department provided some €130 million to local authorities for water conservation measures in their areas. The primary objective of water conservation is to reduce water loss in distribution networks to an economic level and to address unacceptably high levels of unaccounted for water. With this investment, local authorities largely focused on putting in place water management systems to allow for active leakage control and better planning of mains rehabilitation.
This investment provided the platform for more intensive investment in mains rehabilitation and is a key priority under my Department's Water Services Investment Programme 2010 to 2012, a copy of which is available in the Oireachtas Library. Mains rehabilitation is an integral part of local authority water conservation strategies and involves water distribution pipelines being relined or replaced. The Programme provides for a substantial scaling up of activity on mains rehabilitation, and local authorities are due to commence contracts with a value of some €320 million during the period of the Programme. Funding is particularly targeted at areas where the level of unaccounted for water is unacceptably high. Over time, this investment should lead to marked reductions in unaccounted for water and progress will continue to be monitored on an annual basis through the local authority service indicators.
Local authorities are required to give priority to water conservation works as an alternative to new infrastructure provision. The phasing and funding of mains rehabilitation projects for each local authority are set out in the published Programme. This year to date, my Department has paid over €32.8 million to local authorities on water conservation, including mains rehabilitation, in their areas. The progression and timing of the commencement of construction of those contracts would ultimately be a matter for the relevant local authority, depending on the nature and complexity of the project, any statutory processes involved and the need for compliance with my Department's project procurement guidelines for water conservation projects. Accordingly, information on progress with individual projects may be had from the relevant local authority.