THE lack of water for housing and commercial developments has been described as ‘the greatest infrastructure deficits in all of West Cork.’
‘This situation is extremely serious,’ Cllr John O’Sullivan (FG) stated at meeting of the Western Division of Cork County Council.
He said he – and other members of the Council – have raised the issue repeatedly and the public has come to realise the situation is now ‘a crisis.’
‘Where are our TDs on this issue?’ Cllr O’Sullivan asked, ‘because this is the greatest infrastructure deficit in all of West Cork.’
Clonakilty’s water supply network is currently ‘at capacity,’ which means that numerous houses with planning permission cannot proceed until the supply has been increased.
Cllr O’Sullivan said the word ‘Clonakilty’ is a misnomer because the supply network covers areas from Rosscarbery to Timoleague, and has a bearing on villages such as Rossmore, Ardfield and Rathbarry.
As an example, he pointed out that Courtmacsherry village has 44 houses with planning permission, but they have ‘no certainty’ that they can proceed because they do not have the water supply.
‘It is the same situation in Rosscarbery,’ he added. ‘It is affecting builders who say they cannot proceed because they don’t know when they are going to get a connection.’
Cork County Council officials have acknowledged the seriousness of the situation and said they were having high level talks with Irish Water, which is responsible for resolving the problem.
The county engineer agreed it is ‘a critical issue, needing urgent attention,’ and added, ‘there is a task force working on developing an interim solution.’
Cllr O’Sullivan said the Council needs ‘a commitment from Irish Water for the money to develop a solution because without a proper supply all of these areas will stagnate.’
A spokesperson for Irish Water said it has commenced ‘the early stages of the design process for the medium and long-term solutions as identified by the national water resources project.
‘Initial workshops with Cork County Council operational staff,’ the spokesperson added, ‘will help to agree on details of the solution. Increasing the water supply to Clonakilty is of the highest priority for Irish Water. However, the delivery of the solution will still take a number of years due to the scale of works that will be required.’
Cllr Patrick Gerard Murphy (FF) said the deficit is evident throughout West Cork. He claimed developments in Castletownbere have been stymied because of the lack of water connections.
Cllr Murphy said the targets set out in the county development plan will count for nothing ‘unless the infrastructure exists.’
Cllr Deirdre Kelly (FF) agreed that the plan to build 100 new houses in Dunmanway won’t happen unless the infrastructure is in place.
Cllr Paul Hayes (Ind) pleaded with Irish Water for action, saying, ‘We are in crisis mode.’ But Cllr O’Sullivan pointed out that ‘even if the money were available today, the lead-in time is longer than the next county development plan.’
The initial plan was to augment the Clonakilty supply from Curralickey lake in Dunmanway via a new pipeline. But Irish Water is now considering augmenting Clonakilty’s water supply from the Bandon River.
The term ‘capacity’ in relation to the Clonakilty supply refers to the fact that the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) has set an abstraction limit of 4,500,000 litres per day from the Clonakilty source, the Argideen River.
Cllr O’Sullivan previously made the radical suggestion that the EPA should raise the abstraction level. ‘If the EPA raised it – even by 10% – it would be of enormous benefit because the supply is at capacity at present,’ he said.
Cllr O’Sullivan is also of the opinion that the controversial water charges would have given Irish Water the money to do these projects.