Athlone area facing more winter water cuts
Irish Water customers in Athlone could be facing water restrictions for at least the next six months as efforts continue to find a solution to the water supply crisis facing the town.
That was the stark message given to Athlone Mayor, Cllr Frankie Keena and Minister Kevin 'Boxer' Moran by representatives from Irish Water at a meeting in Leinster House last week.
The meeting, which was arranged by Minister Moran, took place following months of trenchant criticism of the water utility company from local representatives and against a backdrop of regular water outages for householders and business premises.
With the main water treatment plant for Athlone operating at full capacity, Irish Water said it is looking at a range of short-term solutions to the water supply crisis, including the installation of a temporary water treatment plant, ahead of a permanent upgrading of the capacity at the water treatment plant.
“We were very disappointed to be told that the timeframe for implementing any short-term solution is about six months,” said Cllr Keena “but they pointed out that they will do their utmost to get it in place sooner, if possible.”
The four representatives from Irish Water who attended last week's meeting, including Managing Director, Niall Gleeson, said they have “plans in place” to upgrade the water treatment plant at Marine View, which is a long-term project, but they are looking at the installation of a temporary water treatment plant as a short-term measure.
Irish Water told the meeting that demand for drinking water in the Athlone area “is consistently higher” than the production capacity of the plant.
“This means that levels in the Annagh reservoir drop gradually every day and once a certain level is reached, it is necessary to impose restrictions on the supply to allow storage to build up,” they said.
They also pointed out that there is “no resilience” in the water supply to Athlone when big bursts occur or when maintenance is required, due to the capacity issues, and they are left with “no option” but to impose water restrictions. While a temporary water treatment plant may provide a short-term solution to Athlone’s on-going water woes, Westmeath County Council Director of Services Barry Kehoe told the October meeting of the Athlone-Moate Municipal District that he was not “100 per cent sure” about the regulations surrounding the installation of a temporary water treatment plant, and pointed out that the last time such a measure had been put in place in Athlone “Irish Water did not exist.”
“The environmental regulations around the abstraction of water has changed as lot since then” said Mr Kehoe “and I am not sure what planning process would apply for this temporary structure.”
A previous proposal by Irish Water to install infrastructure at Portaneena to extract nine million gallons of water a day from Lough Ree has been scrapped.