Drinking water quality is high but increased vigilance is needed by Irish Water and Local Authorities to protect public health, says EPA.

Date released: October 06, 2022

  • The quality of drinking water from public supplies remains high, with over 99.7% of samples compliant with bacterial and chemical limits.
  • Two significant incidents during 2021 at the Gorey and Ballymore Eustace water treatment plants put the health of approximately 885,000 people at risk, highlighting significant failings in oversight and management by Irish Water.
  • The number of supplies breaching THM standards increased in 2021, reversing all progress seen in recent years.
  • Progress to remove lead from drinking water networks is too slow, with the need for stronger leadership at national level.
  • The number of people served by “at-risk” supplies on the EPA’s Remedial Action List (RAL) has reduced, arising from upgrade works at two large water supplies: Leixlip and Vartry water treatment plants.

7th October 2022: The EPA Drinking Water Quality in Public Supplies Report 2021 released today, shows that the quality of drinking water in public supplies remains high, with over 99.7% compliance with bacterial and chemical limits. The continued high levels of water quality being achieved are positive for consumers and indicate that water is safe to drink.

However, there were two significant incidents during 2021 at the Gorey and Ballymore Eustace water treatment plants that put the health of approximately 885,000 people at risk, with community illness and hospitalisations occurring in the Gorey incident. These highlighted significant failings in oversight and management by Irish Water and local authorities. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) instructed Irish Water to implement a number of actions at all supplies, to prevent the reoccurrence of similar issues. As a result of these actions, more drinking water quality issues were detected and reported, with the number of Boil Water Notices increasing significantly in the last quarter of 2021. The total number of people affected by Boil Water Notices in 2021 was approx. 211,000.

Launching the report, Dr Tom Ryan, EPA Director said:

“The serious incidents at Gorey and Ballymore Eustace water treatment plants last year, which resulted in unsafe water being released for consumption, have highlighted Irish Water’s fundamental obligation to ensure our public water supplies are properly operated, and managed, to protect public health. Increased vigilance is needed by Irish Water and Local Authorities in their oversight and management of plant operations to ensure incidents are dealt with appropriately and in a timely manner.”

Dr Ryan added:

“Boil water notices are affecting an increasing number of consumers and while we recognise the challenges these present to individuals and communities, they are necessary to protect public health. High incidences of boil water notices will remain with us until Irish Water improves the resilience of drinking water plants.”

While water is safe today, the EPA’s Remedial Action List of “at-risk” supplies identifies where long-term improvements are needed in our drinking water infrastructure to protect public health. Following EPA targeted enforcement, supplies upgraded in 2021 include Vartry (serves approx. 127,000) and Leixlip (serves approx. 590,000) water treatment plants. At the end of 2021, there were 52 “at-risk” supplies serving approx. 375,000 people down from >1,000,000 consumers in 2020.

However, the latest publication of the RAL (Sept 2022) has seen some of this progress eroded, with the population served by “at-risk” supplies increasing to approx. 575,000. Furthermore, the length of time it takes to implement improvements at supplies is not acceptable to the EPA as it means these supplies remain vulnerable for longer. The EPA requires that Irish Water targets investment and resources to both reduce the number of supplies on the RAL, and the time it takes to implement these improvements.

Noel Byrne, EPA Programme Manager, said:

“It is welcome to see how targeted enforcement has led to significant improvements at large supplies such as Leixlip and Vartry, supporting the security of these critical water supplies into the future. However, in order for supplies to be secure into the future, Irish Water must resolve the “at-risk” supplies on the RAL and ensure that future actions are targeted where they are most needed to protect public health. In particular, the deterioration in compliance with THM standards needs to be addressed as a matter of priority”.

Lead in drinking water causes a cumulative risk to human health. The EPA is highlighting the slow rate of lead replacement by Irish Water, as it will take almost a quarter of a century to address the risks posed to public health from lead in drinking water at the replacement rate observed in 2021. In addition, leadership is required at a national level by relevant Departments to address this issue. A report from these Departments on assessments of lead pipework in public buildings and plans to remove lead from these buildings is overdue.

The EPA Drinking Water Quality in Public Supplies 2021 Report and the complete list of public water supplies currently on the Remedial Action List - including details of the proposed remedial measures and associated timeframes - are available on the EPA website.

Further information: Emily Williamson, EPA Media Relations Office 053-9170770 (24 hours) or media@epa.ie

Notes to Editor

Some key findings of the 2021 report on public water supplies:

  • 99.96 per cent of samples comply with microbiological parameter limits.
  • 99.60 per cent of samples comply with chemical parameter limits.
  • 52 supplies were on the EPA’s Remedial Action List (RAL) at the end of 2021, compared to 46 at the end of 2020.
  • 70 boil water notices and 26 water restrictions were in place in 2021, affecting almost 230,000 people.
  • 29 of those boil water notices were in place for more than 30 days, meaning they are classed as long-term notices requiring investment in infrastructure to address.
  • E. coli bacteria was detected in four supplies, compared to three supplies in 2020.
  • Trihalomethanes (THM) limits were exceeded in 58 supplies, compared to 35 in 2020.
  • Pesticides limits were exceeded in 31 supplies, compared to 33 in 2020.
  • The EPA issued nine Directions (legally binding instructions) to Irish Water in 2021.

The EPA has identified the following priorities for Irish Water to address on a national level to protect and improve public water supplies:

  • Progressing action programmes for all Remedial Action List schemes;
  • Ensure that water is free of bacteria;
  • Ensure that water is free of protozoan organisms;
  • Ensure that water is free of chemical substances (trihalomethanes and pesticides);
  • Ensure that water treatment plants are operated correctly;
  • Eliminating lead from our drinking water networks;
  • Managing risks to our public water supplies by adopting Drinking Water Safety Plans for all supplies.
    30th September the EPA updated the RAL. There are currently 57 supply zones serving a population of 568,477 and increase of 5 supplies since the start of 2022. The link to the revised RAL is here.

List of supplies on the Remedial Action List at the end of 2021

Carlow Carlow North Regional 10,089
Cavan Bailieborough 8028
Cavan Belturbet 1986
Cavan Shercock 734
Cavan Dowra PWS 95
Clare Corofin 1316
Clare Ennistymon RWS 7179
Clare West Clare RWS (New WTP) 11,587
Clare West Clare RWS (Old WTP) 3995
Cork Mitchelstown North  2379 
Cork Castletownbere  2370
Cork Glashaboy  24,602 
Cork Whitegate Regional  9897 
Cork City  Cork City Water Supply 97,176
Donegal Ballymagroarty  756
Donegal Glenties-Ardara  3647 
Donegal  Milford 2681
Kerry  Ballyheigue 2543
Kerry  Aughacasla 353 
Kerry  Cahersiveen 1413 
Kerry Caragh Lake  1958
Kerry  Kilgarvan 046A 825
Kerry Mountain Stage  866
Kilkenny  Callan 2675
Kilkenny  Kilkenny City (Radestown) WS 15,344
Kilkenny Piltown/Fiddown  3047
Limerick Foynes/Shannon Estuary PWS 7242
Limerick Fedamore 507
Limerick Newcastle West  9939
Longford Ballymahon  8247 
Longford Longford Central  17,500
Louth Greenmount  4964
Louth Tallanstown  2040 
Mayo Louisburgh  793 
Mayo Newport PWS 705
Meath Batterstown  96
Meath Drumcondrath 1219
Meath Navan- Mid Meath Kilcarn PWS 6412 
Meath Trim PWS 11,539
Offaly Clara/Ferbane RWSS  7700
Roscommon North East Regional 8191
Tipperary Borrisokane 1807
Tipperary Burncourt Ballylooby  1807
Tipperary Clonmel Poulavanogue  2750
Tipperary Galtee Regional 11,793
Tipperary Nenagh Regional  15,161 
Waterford Dungarvan 12,116
Waterford Kereen 27
Wexford Clonroche 538
Wexford Wexford Town  22,337 
Wicklow Aughrim/Annacurra  1644
Wicklow Ballymorris  18


List of the supplies currently on a Boil Water Notice or Water Restriction (on 28/09/2022) 

CountyName of SupplyPopulation affected by notice
Cavan Bailieboro RWSS 5
Cork Killavullen 810
Cork Roberts Cove 65
Cork Whiddy Island 40
Donegal Lettermacaward 2266
Galway Ballinasloe Public Supply 350
Galway Dunmore/Glenamaddy PWS 1
Galway Spiddal PWSS 5676
Galway Inisboffin PWS 156
Meath Batterstown  96
Meath  St Louis National School, Rathkenny 48
Meath  Baltrasna 9
Tipperary  Glenary 10,564
Tipperary Horse & Jockey PWS  648
Tipperary Clonmel/Poulavanogue 96
Waterford East Waterford Water Supply Scheme  189
Waterford Graiguenageeha  40
Waterford  Kilmanahan 11 
Waterford  Garryahilish 2
Waterford  Tinkock/Tinnabinna 43
Waterford  Carrignagower 35
Waterford Kereen  28 
Waterford Ballydermody 
Wicklow Ballymorris Public Supply  17 
Wicklow Johnstown South (Arklow) Public Supply
Total   21,203