As the Irish population grows, the need for more homes increases, which in turn puts pressure on existing infrastructure, including the water and wastewater system. Uisce Éireann has a critical role to play in developing water infrastructure to support economic growth including the delivery of housing across the country.
Investment in infrastructure to support the delivery of housing
Uisce Éireann’s Strategic Funding Plan and Capital Investment Plan sets out our ambition for the building, repair, and upgrading of Uisce Éireann’s water treatment plants, wastewater treatment plants, and water and sewer networks. We will invest €5.3 billion in water services from 2020 to 2024 with significant benefits for the economy and the environment. Continued investment is critical to delivery on Uisce Éireann’s objectives.
In 2022, Uisce Éireann invested over €1 billion (€1.061 billion) in capital expenditure for the first time. We delivered this investment through our infrastructure delivery portfolios. For example, the utility recently completed the connection of a major new trunk water main in Ballycoolin, which will lead to significantly increased capacity to support growth and development in Fingal and North County Dublin, as well as providing a more secure and reliable water supply to the 350,000 customers currently on the network. Similar projects are underway across the country as we work with our delivery partners to support growth and development.
Yvonne Harris, Uisce Éireann’s Housing for All Programme Director says: “Uisce Éireann is committed to playing its part in the national drive to support the construction industry provide homes to people who need them by prioritising the delivery of key water service infrastructure.”
Uisce Éireann’s Housing Programme
We are committed to supporting social and economic growth and the Government’s Housing for All policy objectives. In September 2021, Uisce Éireann established a cross functional housing programme to ensure that we are supporting housing delivery in an efficient and timely manner. The programme focuses on the delivery of our obligations under the Housing for All strategy and has established a governance model to support escalations and timely decision-making.
We have listened closely to, and collaborated with, the construction industry and moved to improve our connections process, ensuring that we keep pace with construction demand.
To further support development and planning, we have published water and wastewater capacity registers on our website www.water.ie. These capacity registers provide information on the treatment capacity available to support planning authorities across the country, allowing the development community to identify areas with potential for social and economic growth as well as supporting the national drive for housing.
We have also established a Self-Lay in Public Roads programme and an Experience-Based Accreditation scheme. Both of these innovations have helped industry deliver housing speedily, while also ensuring the integrity of our infrastructure now and into the future.
In 2022, Uisce Éireann processed pre-connection enquiries associated with 116,647 homes. We issued connection offers associated with 36,989 housing units. We enabled 4,250 connections to water services infrastructure associated with over 25,000 homes, a significant increase from 2021.
Our quality assurance team completed over 6,900 site visits in 2022, as requested by developers, to ensure that water services assets can be vested by Uisce Éireann securing safe and reliable services for our customers into the future. We see all of these numbers trending upwards in first half of 2023, we are keeping up with industry demand to enable homes to be connected to our infrastructure.
Working with our stakeholders to deliver housing
Working with a wide range of stakeholders, including developers, the construction sector, business organisations such as the chambers of commerce, local authorities, and others, Uisce Éireann has continuously refined its connections process to ensure it is fit for purpose to meet Ireland’s housing needs.
“We are working to build effective partnerships to meet the housing supply challenge and we are here to listen to our stakeholders and take action.
“We are proactively making this happen by hosting, presenting, or attending relevant conferences and events relating to housing to support our key stakeholders. We will continue to work in partnership with all those who are committed to the goal of providing homes, to ensure Uisce Éireann can deliver water infrastructure where and when it’s needed,” adds Yvonne Harris.
Working with our regulator, the Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU), Uisce Éireann also developed a First Mover Disadvantage (FMD) policy proposal to mitigate ‘first mover disadvantage’ for developers. The CRU, following public consultation, have now published a decision paper on first mover, all details are available on CRU website.
Notwithstanding the significant progress that we have made, challenges remain. Construction inflation is an issue for everyone involved in infrastructure delivery, and Uisce Éireann is no exception. We recognise that our suppliers, contractors, and other delivery partners are facing increased costs and we are working with them to ensure that investment in essential infrastructure continues.
Finally, our message to the construction industry is that we want to work in collaboration with all stakeholders to deliver homes. We have the team in place, and we have the capacity to deliver. We would encourage all developers and builders to engage with us early in your project, to construct assets in line with our standard details and codes of practice, to enable a timely connection and let us help you get the job done.
We are confident that by working together and combining our knowledge, skills, and expertise we can meet Ireland’s housing needs, while ensuring these new homes have reliable, sustainable water services, and that we protect the environment for future generations.
In addition, we are supporting the Government’s new initiative allowing developers and others to be refunded for water and wastewater standard connection charges as set out in circular PL/04/2023. This is one of several new measures announced by government aimed at encouraging developers to build more homes. We are working closely with the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage Water Services and Planning Department to implement a cross functional process to support construction. Please watch our website for updates www.water.ie/connections.
Uisce Éireann has a key role to play in helping communities around Ireland to thrive and we are fully committed to playing our part in the national drive to provide homes to people who need them by developing and prioritising the delivery of key water service infrastructure. We have already made progress in upgrading and developing critical water and wastewater infrastructure and we want to continue to enable communities to grow with further works that will support sustainable growth and development, provide safe drinking water and enhance the environment. Despite the challenges that lie ahead we are confident that, with the continued support of our stakeholders, we will deliver the additional infrastructure needed to support the implementation of national strategies and deliver housing.