Ireland releases drinking water report

The Irish Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) annual report on the quality of drinking water was published recently.

Jan. 17, 2003 -- The Irish Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) annual report on the quality of drinking water was published recently. The report presents the results of drinking water sampling and analysis carried out by sanitary authorities in the year 2001 and a review of results for the years 1999 - 2001.

The EPA has made a number of recommendations in relation to improved drinking water management, improved monitoring and reporting, better communication and infrastructural matters. And given the increased interest by the general public in the quality of drinking water, the EPA has also recommended that sanitary authorities make monthly monitoring results available to consumers, through both their web sites and their offices.

In 2001, 146,000 individual tests on 904 public water supplies and 1,536 group water schemes were carried out. The number of samples taken increases each year, which reflects the importance placed on the monitoring of drinking water quality in Ireland.

Overall, the quality of drinking water supplied by sanitary authorities in public water supplies was found to be satisfactory with 96.0 per cent of all tests carried out being acceptable (up from 95.7 per cent in 2000).

Most consumers receive their drinking water from sanitary authorities. Despite the overall satisfactory quality rating given to public water supplies in the report, the EPA is concerned that some public water supplies are consistently in breach of the standards for certain parameters (e.g. aluminium and in some cases nitrates).

Corrective action programmes should be prepared for these supplies as a priority to ensure that the supplies are brought to full compliance with the standards in the Regulations.

In contrast to public water supplies, the quality of water supplied by group water schemes, supplying about 145,000 rural households in Ireland, continues to be unsatisfactory with only 89.5 per cent of all tests carried out being acceptable (down from 91.2 per cent in 2000).

The most important indicator of drinking water quality is the presence or absence of faecal coliforms. The noticeable decrease in the numbers of samples containing faecal coliforms in 2001 in both public water supplies and group water schemes is to be welcomed.

Compliance with the faecal coliform standard in public water supplies improved from 96.7% in 2000 to 97.2% in 2001 (510 samples contained faecal coliforms in 2000 compared to 422 in 2001). Similarly, there has been an improvement in compliance with the faecal coliforms standard in group water schemes with compliance in 2001 at 74.1% compared to 70.8% in 2000 (1206 samples contained faecal coliforms in 2000 compared to 1073 in 2001).

Although this improvement is to be welcomed, compliance with the faecal coliforms standard is still poor in group water schemes, lagging far behind that of public water supplies, and remains unacceptable.

720 (79.6%) public water supplies and 1,051 (68.4%) group water schemes monitored were free of faecal contamination in 2001. This means that 184 public water supplies and 485 group water schemes exhibited some degree of faecal contamination during 2001, although the majority of exceedences recorded were moderate in nature.

Most of the schemes that exhibit faecal coliform contamination are small in size and many of them do not have their water disinfected prior to distribution. The presence of faecal coliforms in drinking water is unacceptable and both public and private suppliers of drinking water in Ireland need to take the necessary steps to eradicate this problem as soon as possible.


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