Local infrastructure ‘bursting at seams’
NI Water is ready to meet the challenges that lie ahead, but without the necessary funding, the infrastructure is ready to burst at the seams.
This was the stark message outlined in a speech by Dr Len O’Hagan, NI Water Chairman, at the launch of the company’s Annual Report for 2018/19 and the company’s Draft Strategy 2021-2046 last week.
NI Water’s strategy, looking at water and water infrastructure over the next 25 years is now open for public consultation until November 6. The company would like to invite the public to ‘Have their Say’ and tell them what they think.
The Draft Strategy 2021- 2046 is available on the website at https://www/niwater.com/our strategy. Comments on the strategy can be made at https://www/niwater.com/our strategy or by emailing [email protected]
NI Water’s Chairman, Dr Len O’Hagan also commented:
“Without a doubt, operationally, NI Water has never been in better shape.
“Over 2018/19 we have delivered record levels of drinking water, record low pollution incidents, our lowest ever levels of supply interruptions and the best ever levels of service for our customers. This has been delivered while keeping bills affordable.
“We are embracing technology in many forms, from the use of data analytics and artificial intelligence to innovative energy procurement and generation.
“As Northern Ireland’s largest energy user, we have a leadership responsibility in helping to lower the harmful Co2 emissions that are driving the climate emergency which was declared by the UK parliament on 2nd May.
“However, we are facing a tipping point, we need to start making decisions now if we want to maintain water services that one would expect in a healthy, western European economy.
“Since we were established in 2007, the recommended level of funding from the independent Utility Regulator has been met by Government in just three of the intervening years.
“Underfunding of our PC15 business plan 2015-21 (£990m actual versus £1.7bn required) has already resulted in curbs to economic development with new housing and businesses being unable to get connected to our sewerage system in around ninety-nine areas throughout the province.
“Indeed, the growth of Belfast City, the primary economic engine of Northern Ireland, will struggle unless the £1bn investment in strategic drainage, under the Living with Water Programme, is supported. The City Deal risks not realising its full potential. Put bluntly, no drains means no cranes.
“However, there is a window of opportunity to invest properly in our water and sewerage infrastructure. To remain fit for purpose, we calculate that the sum is £2.5bn, including £1bn to address used water, flooding and drainage problems in Belfast alone.
“Funding at this level will not solve all of the issues, but it will allow us to address 70% of our used water capacity problems whilst protecting drinking water and enhancing environmental protection.
“Over the years, we have learnt to do more for less and have achieved some amazing results.
“As Chairman of NI Water, my appeal is direct but simple, give us the funding and let us show you what we can achieve to help deliver a healthy and thriving population, a growing economy and a flourishing natural environment.”
Dr O’Hagan called for the Department for Infrastructure and the Department of Finance to develop options on how to provide good governance and sustainable financing solutions for water security in Northern Ireland by engaging with industry experts.