24 September 2009
A leading environmental expert has highlighted that Ireland’s ability to achieve sustainable use of water is now under long-term threat unless immediate action is taken. According to the latest industry trends, the status of our water and wastewater infrastructure will fall behind our water needs and obligations for the protection of our water environment without continued government investment.
Speaking to delegates at the fifth annual Environment Ireland conference, Teri Hayes, Director, WYG Ireland, said: “The situation in relation to water is now reaching a critical phase. If we are serious about building a smart green economy with sustainability at its heart. Water metering charges, legislation, public information, quality standards and availability of water saving technologies all have a place to play in maintaining a sustainable water environment in Ireland. However, any slowing in the implementation of these drivers for sustainable use of water, together with delays in upgrading our water infrastructure, will have long-term negative impacts on Ireland’s environment and ability for future economic growth.”
Hayes highlighted the significant inefficiencies that currently exist and the scope for improvements, particularly around water conservation and cost management. Significant improvements have occurred in this area but without adequate investment Ireland will continue to lag behind its neighbours. According to data from the European Environment Agency on estimated losses from urban water networks, Ireland is the only Western European country with estimated losses/leakage exceeding 30 per cent of supply. In contrast, Germany has less than 3 per cent losses/leakage.
Many businesses are also now facing the economic requirement to decrease their water bills and minimise usage. Envirowise has estimated that 30 per cent of savings can be made by businesses on water and effluent bills by implementing simple measures. Hayes cites that over the last three years, WYG Ireland, has worked with many different business types from hotels to public buildings to garden centres, in significantly reducing their water and energy costs. “In many cases, businesses are literally pouring their profits away with the financial equivalent of just under 40 bottles of champagne going down the drain every minute in wasted water,” said Hayes.
The conference, which is Ireland’s largest conference on environmental policy and management, is organised in association with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government. Attended by over 300 delegates, the main theme of this year’s conference was ‘Towards a green economy: Prioritising the environment in difficult economic times.’
Pictured at the conference is L-R: Micheál Ó Cinnéide, Director, EPA; Mary Kelly, Director-General, EPA; John Gormley, Minister for Environment, Heritage & Local Government and Michael Cunningham, Director, WYG Ireland