The drinking water that flows from our taps is drawn from rivers, lakes and groundwater and undergoes varying amounts of treatment to ensure that it is safe to drink. For most people who live in urban areas the water is supplied by the local authority following extensive treatment. Smaller communities use private schemes while single houses in rural areas tend to rely on groundwater wells with no water treatment at all.
The vulnerability of our surface and groundwater to pollution is reflected in the relatively high level of pollution of our drinking water supplies. In early 2007 the water supply for Galway City was contaminated by the Cryptosporidium parasite and this caused widespread illness among consumers with serious risks to some of the population. The discharge of sewage to waters and the spreading of animal manure on land are the principal risks to the quality of drinking water in Ireland.
In 2009 coliform bacteria (an indicator of faecal pollution) was detected in 190 of the 944 public supplies monitored, while the private supplies were much worse with 194 of 511 supplies showing evidence of contamination.
It is currently estimated that 85% to 95% of properties meet the Lead Compliance Standards of 10 µg/l when sampled at the customer’s tap. It is Irish Water's goal to establish the current baseline compliance rate through a comprehensive national sampling programme and to increase this compliance rate to 98% by the end of 2021 and 99% by the end of 2027.
Irish water attribute this to remaining lead pipes in the public network and will be replacing existing lead pipes with plastic pipes as part of their 'Lead in Drinking Water Mitigation Plan'.
2019 findings show that 99.9% of samples comply with microbiological parameters and 99.6% of samples comply with chemical parameters.
- During 2019, seven samples (one in each of seven supplies) failed to meet the standard for E. coli in the annual monitoring returns. This is a slight increase compared to six in 2018.
- Cryptosporidium was found in 22 public water supplies in 2019; a decrease from 25 supplies in 2018. Giardia was also detected in four of these 22 supplies, plus one other. There has been, however, an overall increase in the number of supplies with Cryptosporidium detections since 2015
- At the end of 2019, the EPA was investigating 31 supplies serving just under 294,300 people, due to failures to meet the pesticide standard. The number of supplies is down from 42 supplies affecting 283,500 people at the end of 2018.
- During 2019, 67 boil notices were in place in 16 counties affecting 695,364 consumers. This is a significant increase compared to 2018, during which 44 boil notices were in place in 14 counties affecting 97,204 consumers. The main reason being boil notices for consumers served by Leixlip water treatment plant in October and November 2019, affecting a total of 657,3959 people
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