Coveney announces €14.87m of block and scheme-based grant allocations for 2016 under the multi-annual Rural Water Programme 2016-2018
Mr Simon Coveney, T.D., Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government today (30 August 2016), announced his Department’s 2016 block and scheme-based grant allocations to local authorities for group water and sewerage schemes.
The total 2016 allocation of almost €14.9 million compares to expenditure of almost €11.65 million on group water and sewerage schemes in 2015, an almost 30% increase. Allocations are provided to local authorities under the Department’s multi-annual Rural Water Programme 2016-2018. Responsibility for the administration of the programme, is devolved to the local authorities.
The funding is aimed primarily towards the improvement of water quality in existing group water schemes, the takeover of some schemes by Irish Water in cases where the scheme has sought such a takeover, and the upgrading and water conservation works in group water scheme distribution networks. Importantly, funding is also provided towards new group water and sewerage schemes – such new schemes enable rural households, to have a supply of good quality piped water for the first time. The primary basis for the 2016 funding has been on existing commitments, "shovel-ready" projects and with priority given to water quality compliance.
The Department was assisted by an Expert Panel convened to examine proposals and make recommendations for funding on a number of elements of the programme.
The Minister said "I thank the Expert Panel for their work and I am pleased in particular that a funding mechanism has now been found that facilitates the progression of new group water schemes that were not viable at previous grant rates – in particular some such schemes in Mayo and Galway. The 2016 new group water schemes allocation is a significant first step towards some of these schemes now being able to progress and receive a good quality piped water supply to their houses".
A particular feature in the new multi-annual programme is the amalgamation and rationalisation of group water schemes
This new and innovative category of funding will involve 13 schemes across the country with 5 schemes (2 in South Offaly and 3 in West Limerick) having been identified by the National Federation of Group Water Schemes as suitable initial pathfinder or demonstration projects for amalgamation/rationalisation in 2016. The Minister said “I wish to thank the National Federation of Group Water Schemes for working with my Department in developing an amalgamation/rationalisation strategy for the group water scheme sector and in particular in identifying potential clusters of group water schemes where the best way forward for them is amalgamation/rationalisation to ensure that a supply of good quality water is provided to their members on a consistent basis and to efficiently manage their day-to-day operations. This process will involve staffing/management costs initially and my Department will work with the Federation as well as the two counties involved, Offaly and Limerick County Councils, on behalf of the GWS to put in place the necessary processes.”
The Minister concluded on the programme by stating that “we need economic recovery to reach all parts of the country. The Government, together with the Oireachtas, is putting in place measures to revitalise all of Ireland so that the benefits are felt inside every doorstep and in every community. The Multi-Annual Rural Water Programme, by providing certainty to the sector on funding of projects, is an important component of this process for rural areas.”
In addition to public water supplies operated by Irish Water, which supply drinking water to the majority of the Irish population, private co-operative groups (group water schemes) provide drinking water services in many rural areas but predominantly in northern and western seaboard areas. The allocations reflect the high concentration of group water schemes in these areas and necessary improvement works required in Galway and Mayo in particular.
The allocations follow on from interim allocations made to local authorities in May of this year – made then in order to ensure programme momentum and that water quality issues are addressed as a matter of priority.
The scheme-based allocations being provided today will fund almost 119 schemes/projects and benefit over 12,500 households. These schemes are at various stages of development from planning, to procurement, to construction. The block grant allocations will provide benefits to additional schemes and households and the selection of these schemes is devolved to the individual local authorities. Details of both the scheme-based allocations and the block grant allocations as well as the names of the various schemes under each of the measures are set out in the table below.
2016 represents the first year in transitioning to a new rolling multi-annual funding framework, the objective of which is to provide enhanced funding certainty for priority investment needs in order to support the implementation of proper planning and sustainable development in rural areas, to meet the requirements of the Drinking Water Directive in relation to rural water supplies and to support the delivery of measures identified in River Basin Management Plans so as to meet the objectives of the Water Framework Directive.
The multi-annual rural water programme will forge synergies with Irish Water’s 25 Year Water Services Strategic Plan and their Capital Investment Plan to ensure maximum consistency and return for the resources invested.