Dáil Éireann - Volume 526 - 21 November, 2000

Written Answers. - Water and Sewerage Schemes.

297. Mr. Dennehy asked the Minister for the Environment and Local Government the number of persons here who rely on privately sourced water; the current state of plans to eliminate inferior quality drinking water; if he has satisfied himself that sufficient legal penalties are in place to prevent contamination of the water supply; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26633/00]

Minister for the Environment and Local Government (Mr. Dempsey): Census 91, Volume 10, Housing, published by the CSO in 1997, shows that 50,447 households are supplied by privately sourced group water schemes. A further 129,098 households are dependent on private individual water supply systems.

Under the national development plan 2000-2006, a record £420 million is being provided to finance a range of measures to improve the quality, reliability and efficiency of rural water supplies, including: 100% capital grants for essential water disinfection and treatment equipment for privately sourced group schemes; 85% grants for new and upgraded group water schemes, subject to a cost limit of £6,000 per house; an annual subsidy of up to £155 per house towards the operational cost of group water schemes; grants of up to £1,600 per house for the provision or improvement of an individual water supply; an increase in the cost threshold for small public water and sewerage schemes from £250,000 to £500,000; and a new national source monitoring programme to determine the quality of sources used by private group water schemes.

In the case of group water schemes serving more than 50 persons, national drinking water regulations require the persons responsible to ensure that the quality of the supplies are in compliance with EU drinking water directive standards not later than the end of 2003. Improvement works necessary to bring about compliance in these cases, and in the case of groups serving less than 50 persons, will generally be grant aidable under the new provisions outlined above. On a broader level, county councils are at present compiling strategic rural water plans which will determine the approach to providing quality water supplies to rural areas on the basis of sound economic and engineering principles and optimum usage of existing public and group scheme infrastructure. These plans, combined with the funding set out under the national development plan, will provide for a robust rural water investment strategy aimed at remedying current deficiencies in rural water supply systems.

In relation to contamination of sources, I am satisfied that adequate penalty and other enforcement provisions for the protection of water qual[697] ity are in place under the Local Government (Water Pollution) Acts and related environmental legislation, including provisions to prevent pollution and to require the effects of pollution to be remedied. I will nevertheless be reviewing these provisions in the context of proposals being developed in my Department for further legislation in relation to water services and water quality.