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NI Water warns half Northern Ireland treatment plants will reach full capacity by 2027

NI Water has reiterated the need for substantial investment in water infrastructure, warning that almost half of Northern Ireland's larger treatment plants will reach full capacity by 2027.

The warning came following a meeting between representatives of NI Water and Mid Ulster council.

It is anticipated that the Mid Ulster Council area will need nearly 11,000 new homes by 2030 to house its growing population, which will require further investment in water services.

Steve Blockwell, head of investment at NI Water, said that, while they welcome the commitment in the New Decade, New Approach deal, "huge constraints on our capital budget has meant that wastewater issues have largely been left unaddressed" in recent years.

Across Northern Ireland, there are 271 large waste water treatment works, which serve around 90% of Northern Ireland's population.

According to NI Water's Price Control 21 business planning analysis, 99 of these treatment works are currently at full capacity, are fast approaching full capacity, or have environmental/operational issues.

A further 33 will reach full capacity by 2027.

Last week, NI Water said it needs at least £2.5billion to address capacity issues and to continue providing essential water and wastewater services.

This is despite the government committing to providing a total of only £2bn to the new Stormont Executive - to cover all sectors.

NI Water explained that the £2.5bn figure includes an infrastructure investment requirement of approximately £1bn for the Living With Water Programme (LWWP).

Steve Blockwell said: “The funding made available in PC15 (2015 to 2021) by NI Government to date for water and wastewater infrastructure is not keeping pace with what Northern Ireland needs.

“Significant investment is needed for wastewater and water infrastructure. NI Water knows Northern Ireland’s growth ambitions, we know what needs done and we have the plan and the skills to deliver it.

"However, if funding continues at current levels there will be significant constraints on economic growth, damage to the environment and risk to people’s health.”

In order to meet the funding needs for infrastructure, health, education and justice, it has been suggested rates will have to be increased - and water charges may have to be introduced.

Finance Minister Conor Murphy has described the proposed Treasury funding as "woefully inadequate", while Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon said she is staunchly opposed to water charges.

Belfast Telegraph