There is light at the end of the tunnel for Construction Professionals across Northern Ireland, as NI Water has announces plans to spend £2 billion over the next six years to upgrade its outdated water and waste water infrastructure, which is responsible for growing Drainage and Flood Risk issues across Northern Ireland.
Currently, around 100 locations in Northern Ireland are either at or beyond their developmental capacity, due to the inferior water infrastructure. However, with the first year’s funding alone, up to 40 of those areas will begin to be addressed.
The Utilities Regulator, the body which decides the budget for NI Water, has recommended the long-awaited investment. The investment is allocated in stages, with the first year’s proposed funding of £145m met by the NI Executive.
As Northern Ireland’s water is funded by government resources, unlike the other parts of the UK, this has been cited as the main cause for historic underfunding of the project. This is the first allocation in a long time that has met NI Water’s budget.
The investment is sorely needed across Northern Ireland, according to construction professionals, government officials and civilians alike. The underinvestment is particular noticeable in its capital, Belfast, where certain areas are served by drainage systems from the 1900s, leaving buildings and homes at periodic flood risk and continuous drainage issues.
Throughout the country, over 90 of NI Water’s treatment plants are either at or near capacity, leading development to slow or cease entirely.
NI Water finance director Ronan Larkin said, “We have to invest in both network and treatment so that we can take the additional loads that come from a growing population, a growing housing stock and a growing economy.”
Indeed, some Northern Irish housebuilding firms have formed a campaign group called Drains for Development to raise awareness of the inadequate Waste Water system.
Speaking on behalf of the group, Conor Mulligan of Lagan Homes commented that it is impacting not only on commercial enterprises, but on “all sorts of developments in Northern Ireland, whether that be housing – private, social, schools, hospitals.”
This was echoed by NI Infrastructure Minister, Nichola Mallon, who commented aside from the issues of drainage and flood risk across Northern Ireland, “…It’s a public health issue, it’s an economic issue, it’s a societal issue and it’s also an environmental issue. It is perhaps one of the most important areas requiring sustained investment that we have across our economy.”
She went on to say that without a redevelopment of the Northern Irish water and waste water infrastructure, “we won’t create employment, we won’t grow our economy and we won’t tackle our housing crisis.”
However, to address the historic underfunding of the wastewater system, Ms Mallon warned it could take as long as 12 years to address the issues in the system.
She said, “It is very clear that we need to have a plan going forward and that as the Executive we need to continue to prioritise investment in our water and waste water infrastructure if we are to realise any of the outcomes in our draft programme for government.”
Micheál O’Sullivan, OSM Director and Senior Environmental Consultant, commented “Having been involved in Drainage and Flood Risk Assessments for over a decade, the phenomenon of flooding is becoming more and more prevalent in Northern Ireland, affecting developers and civilians alike. The improvement in NI Water systems is long overdue, but highly welcome as it ushers in sustainable development in its wake.”
If your site has been affected by drainage or flood risk issues, get in touch with a member of the OSM Team today.