Drinking Water Quality Report 2005

Date released: Jan 27 2007

  • 97.6 per cent of samples analysed in drinking water supplied by sanitary authorities to 79.9% per cent of the population complied with drinking water standards.
  • Recent audits by the EPA of drinking water plants have found improved management practices compared with previous years. 

However,

  • Drinking water supplied to just under seven per cent of the population by private group schemes remains unsatisfactory.
  • Progress in upgrading private group water schemes is not happening at a fast enough speed.
  • Many sanitary authorities did not carry out sufficient monitoring of public water supplies and group water schemes.
  • Both the number of samples taken and the parameters tested must be increased to provide a true picture of the quality of drinking water.

2005 figures released today show that the quality of drinking water in public water supplies remains satisfactory, particularly in the larger public water supplies in Ireland (such as Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Galway and Waterford).

These figures were released by the Environmental Protection Agency in its national report on The Quality of Drinking Water in Ireland, 2005.  A large number of private group water schemes (232 out of 640 monitored) were again found to be contaminated with E. coli (the most important indicator of drinking water quality).

Public Water Schemes and Public Group Schemes (serving 83 per cent of the population):

The quality of drinking water supplied by sanitary authorities was satisfactory in 2005 - the overall rate of compliance with drinking water standards was 97.6 per cent for drinking water produced and distributed by sanitary authorities, the same as that for 2004. Sanitary authorities provided drinking water to 83 per cent of the population in public water supplies (79.9 per cent) and to public group schemes (3.4 per cent) 

Private group schemes (serving seven per cent of the population):

The overall quality of drinking water supplied to less than seven per cent of the population by private group schemes remains unsatisfactory.  The overall compliance rate for the E.Coli standard in private group schemes fell marginally from 78.1 per cent in 2004 to 77.5 per cent in 2005.  The main reason for this decrease was a worrying drop in compliance in Mayo, where compliance fell from 75 per cent in 2004 to 59 per cent in 2005. However, nationally the percentage of schemes contaminated has dropped from 40.4 per cent in 2004 to 36.2 per cent in 2005. 

“The poor microbiological quality of the private group water schemes is the most challenging issue facing the authorities charged with responsibility for drinking water in Ireland and the necessary improvements in drinking water quality supplied by these schemes are not happening at a fast enough pace”, said Dr Matthew Crowe, Programme Manager, EPA’s Office of Environmental Enforcement. 

 

“The relatively moderate drop in the number of schemes contaminated during 2005, while welcome, is not nearly sufficient.  A seismic shift is required in the pace of change for improvement of drinking water quality from private group schemes.  To force the pace on this issue, sanitary authorities should concentrate their enforcement efforts on private group schemes that consistently breach the drinking water standards.  It is simply not acceptable that consumers of drinking water from these schemes be provided with consistently poor quality drinking water”.

 Monitoring of Drinking Water Supplies

The EPA report highlights the fact that many sanitary authorities are not carrying out sufficient monitoring of public water supplies and group water schemes.   An insufficient number of samples were taken to satisfy the requirements of the regulations.  In this regard, 9 per cent of public water supplies, 65 per cent of public group water schemes and 41 per cent of private group water schemes were either not adequately monitored or not monitored at all.

Commenting, Dr Matthew Crowe said,

“Both the number of samples taken and the parameters tested must be increased to provide a true picture of the quality of drinking water.   The high number of supplies not monitored even once during the year is putting the health of people served by these supplies at risk, as they may be consuming contaminated water but are unaware of it".

Drinking Water Audits

Recent audits by the EPA of drinking water plants have found improved management practices compared with previous years.  However, Dr Crowe said,

“We still want to see more effective corrective action being put in place for plants that consistently breach the standards.  In relation to public water supplies we are recommending that all treatment plants be fitted with alarms to immediately alert the local authority to any failure of the disinfection equipment”.

The report entitled The Quality of Drinking Water in Ireland, 2005, contains summary reports for all sanitary authorities.