Water Infrastructure Still Inadequately Maintained, According To Engineers Report

The programme to install water meters in domestic premises should begin in the next 12 months, as should inspection of registered domestic water treatment systems to tackle our inadequately maintained water infrastructure, according to a report published today by Engineers Ireland.

Marking the beginning of Engineers Week 2013 (www.engineersweek.ie) which runs until Sunday, March 3, the report found communications and waste infrastructure to have improved over the last year.  Titled ‘The State of Ireland 2013 – a review of infrastructure in Ireland’, the review once again stated that Ireland struggles to meet peak demand in the area of transport, which needs significant investment. Ireland’s energy infrastructure was found to be properly maintained and of an acceptable standard but requiring investment, according to the Engineers Ireland assessment.

The Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Pat Rabbitte TD, joined by UPC CEO Dana Strong at the launch of Engineers Week 2013, stated: “As a progressive knowledge economy, Ireland needs more engineers and we need young people to choose engineering as a career.  Engineers make a vital contribution to the development of Ireland’s infrastructure and Engineers Week plays a key role in this respect. It captures the imagination of our young people through its week-long schedule of exciting activities and sparks enthusiasm about the engineering profession to people of various ages – I wish the week every success.”

The report, which uses a grading system applied by expert members of Engineers Ireland, analyses five key areas of Ireland’s infrastructure: energy, transport, water, waste and communications.  Communications infrastructure, allocated a ‘B+’ grade, achieved the best mark of the five areas evaluated.  A ‘B-’ was allocated to waste, an improvement on Engineers Ireland’s 2012 appraisal.  Energy infrastructure remains a ‘B’ as in the 2012 review.  The other two areas of water and transport received a ‘C’ grade, with none of the sectors assessed achieving the highest possible ‘A’ grade.

Speaking at the launch, John Power, Director General of Engineers Ireland, acknowledged the country’s fiscal constraints but pinpointed the need for prioritisation with respect to the recommendations in the report.  “Investment in productive infrastructure will always generate a positive payback.  And while we are cognisant of our country’s financial difficulties, this view is very much supported by the EC, ECB and IMF.  On their ninth review of the Government’s economic programme in early 2013, the Troika stated that accelerating the implementation of investment projects could help to address the unemployment challenge in Ireland.  The reality is capital investment is vital to meet the Government’s desire to stimulate theeconomy.  This report recognises the infrastructural challenges facing the country and sets out fundamental steps which should be taken to meet those challenges.”

The report states Ireland’s energy infrastructure should be supported by a review of the planning process to facilitate vital projects and secure energy availability.  It also calls for further development of potential fossil fuel resources offshore and the fast-tracking of the North-South interconnector.

An alternative to the recently shelved National Spatial Strategy is required, according to the document, as is a new ports policy and a restoration of investment in transport to at least 2012 levels to support competitiveness and the unemployment challenge.  Investment over the last decade has improved water quality but its infrastructure is still inadequately maintained.  The installation of water meters should commence, as should inspection of registered domestic waste water treatment systems.

Progress is being made in the waste industry towards utilising waste as a resource.  The report calls for regulation to strengthen the waste collection permit system however.   In communications, the delivery of a transatlantic submarine cable to connect Ireland’s ‘dark fibre’ network is recommended.  Ireland also needs to achieve universal high-speed broadband to all parts of the State by 2016 through the continued development of next generation networks as well as satellite-based access services.  The report also expressed concern regarding the impact on Ireland of the EU budget cuts on the ‘Connecting Europe Facility’.

Engineers Week, beginning today and running until Sunday, March 3, is a week long programme of nationwide events run by Engineers Ireland with the aim of celebrating the world of engineering in Ireland.  An estimated 497 events will take place nationwide over the course of the week.  To find out more information about events taking place near you or to register your attendance, log onto www.engineersweek.ie