Nightly water restrictions are now largely a thing of the past for many homes and business in Athlone, following a strategic and targeted approach by Irish Water to drive down leakage and provide a more secure and reliable water supply for the town.
Over 5 million litres of water, the equivalent of two Olympic sized swimming pools, is now being saved every day across Athlone as a result of these works.
In 2018, Irish Water recognised that Athlone had a high level of leakage with both homeowners and businesses experiencing regular and persistent water outages. Vital upgrades to the water infrastructure were needed as well as a targeted and intensive campaign to reduce leakage and improve the water supply.
Irish Water, in partnership with Westmeath County Council, undertook an extensive review of the water network in Athlone and developed a strategic plan to reduce leakage and provide a more reliable supply.
A number of significant challenges were identified including the town’s old and fragile water mains, which were prone to frequent bursts, as well as much needed improvements to the network and construction of some critical infrastructure. Close collaboration with Westmeath County Council and regional contractors, GMC Utilities, was crucial in order to overcome these challenges and a local knowledge of the historical network would also prove vital.
Speaking about the success of the programme and challenges faced, Matt Thomson, Leakage Reduction Programme Regional Lead with Irish Water said the size and scale of the network issues in Athlone were immense and well documented and caused regular water outages and necessary restrictions.
“As a result of these works and through the close partnership between Irish Water, Westmeath County Council and GMC Utilities, no planned restrictions have been necessary since 2019. This is a fantastic achievement and I would like to thank the communities of Athlone for engaging with us and helping us achieve these results,” Mr Thomson stated.
The first critical element was the District Meter Area improvement programme which involved the installation or upgrade of more than 100 district meters across the town. These district meters gather information and data about water usage and flow which is essential to finding underground leaks and prioritising their repair. This enabled the find and fix crews to not only locate underground leaks but to also prioritise areas where leakage levels were highest. In addition, 143 households across Athlone had leaks on their property’s external supply pipe repaired free of charge through Irish Water’s First Fix Free scheme, resulting in over 260,000 litres of water being saved daily.
Another important part of the programme which was key to reducing leakage in the area was the replacement of over 750 backyard service connections. Backyard services are found in older premises, often installed to the rear of a property and typically made of iron or lead. Due to the age and the poor condition of the pipework, they were a significant source of leakage and supply disruption for customers. These complex works alone resulted in combined savings of over 1.6 million litres of water per day across Athlone.
In addition, almost 23km of aged water mains were replaced and over 200 leaks repaired through Irish Water’s Find and Fix scheme, resulting in a further three million litres of water saved per day, again significantly improving water quality and supply.
CEO of Athlone Chamber, Gerry McInerney, welcomed the progress made by Irish Water.
“Athlone Chamber are delighted with the progress being made by Irish Water with respect to this very important issue. For years there was a deteriorating situation with increased demand and lack of investment with respect to repairs and capital expenditure. It is clear that Athlone’s economic growth will be underpinned by the work already undertaken, and currently underway as well as the capital expenditure planned for the town.
“Our multinationals and hospitality sector are completely reliant on a reliable, secure water supply. The investment by Irish water provides a significant peace of mind in this regard,” Mr McInerney asserted.
Securing the water supply in Athlone in the long term remains a vital focus and Irish Water is continuing with efforts to further drive down leakage and, with the upgrade of the Athlone Water Treatment Plant which will increase capacity at the plant, will meet the demands for the town into the future.