Dubliners face water rationing without Shannon
Dubliners face the prospect of water rationing unless a new supply can be sourced to meet growing demand.
Dublin City Council last night warned that unless its plan to extract water from the River Shannon to serve the capital is approved, it will have to impose restrictions on homeowners and businesses.
Daily demand was at a 'knife edge', city engineer Tom Leahy warned, adding there was no alternative plan to source water.
"This is the one option that recommends itself," he told the Irish Independent.
"All of the others have significant issues associated with them. This one comes head and shoulders above the rest. This is a challenge for communities, but you have to have water. There is no plan B. Six years of study has arrived at this point. In 1996 and 1997 we had daily water rationing and it could be a return to that."
The council wants to extract about 350 million litres of water a day from the Shannon and pump it to a huge reservoir at Garryhinch in Co Laois where it will be stored for up to five months to meet periods of high demand in the capital.
An eco-park will be built around the reservoir, on a 1,500 acre site. The plan will cost ?500m to implement, and permission will be sought in 2012.
There is bitter opposition at local level, but Mr Leahy said that the massive 700-acre reservoir would also serve Tipperary, Laois, Offaly and Kildare and the capital and would not impact on the Shannon.
"This will do absolutely nothing to water levels in Lough Derg," he said. "There's no change in water levels whatsoever. Low flow periods on the Shannon don't tend to go beyond two months. There will be five months' storage in the Midlands when it opens in 2020. It would go down to two months by 2040.
"The Ardnacrusha dam in Co Clare takes 180 cubic metres of water a second from Lough Derg. Under the proposal, four cubic metres would be diverted to the pipeline, meaning there would be no loss of water from the Shannon." When the Shannon was in full flood last year, he added, it would take eight-12 hours to fill the reservoir.
The plan proposes pumping the water along a 100km underground pipeline to Garryhinch.
A planning application is expected to be lodged in 2012, and construction work is unlikely to start before 2016. Up to 1,000 construction jobs will be created, and 50-100 full-time jobs at the eco-park. The council plans a two-year public consultation process.
"We're taking the water to the Midlands, and it will benefit a large number of people," Mr Leahy said. "We're taking 2pc of the flow from the Shannon and people won't even notice it."