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Group water schemes and rural water issues

Rural Water Issues

Approximately 6% of the population have their drinking water supplied by group water schemes (community-run schemes). Of these, about 70% get their water from private group schemes, which have a privately sourced water supply. The remaining schemes get their water from an Irish Water connection.

The National Federation of Group Water Schemes is the organisation representing the sector - more information on group water schemes can be found on the Federation's website.

Almost 10% of the population get their drinking water from private wells.

Nearly 30% of households are not connected to public waste water services and depend on either a septic tank, group waste water treatment or other systems for treating their waste water.

Rural Water Programme

The Rural Water Programme, through Exchequer funding, delivers improvements to private domestic water and waste water services in areas of rural Ireland where there are no public (Irish Water) water/waste water services.

Grant assistance is available, through local authorities (the County Council), under the Programme for capital works for:

  • Group Water Schemes,
  • Community Connections (water and waste water), 
  • Individual Domestic Water Supplies (more commonly called private wells), and
  • Domestic Waste Water Treatment Systems (more commonly called septic tanks)

The Programme provides for priority investment needs, which will support proper planning and sustainable development in rural areas. It will also help Ireland meet its Water Framework Directive commitments (see also River Basin Management Plan 2018-2021)


Capital Funding for Group Schemes and Community Water and Waste Water Connections

The Programme operates on a multi-annual funding approach. In 2019 local authorities were invited to bid for funding based on the needs of schemes for the Rural Water Multi-Annual Programme 2019-2021. The next bids process will take place in early 2022.

Capital funding is provided under the following seven measures:

  • Measure 1 - Source Protection (Group Water Scheme Sector): This measure is aimed at protecting the raw water source of existing group water schemes, thus contributing to the safety of water users through the ability of the scheme to sustainably achieve compliance with the water quality parameters of the Drinking Water Regulations on a consistent long-term basis.
  • Measure 2 - Public health compliance (Group Water Scheme Sector): This measure is aimed at improving water quality in existing group water schemes, through the upgrading of their treatment facilities, so that the schemes can sustainably achieve compliance with the parameters of the Drinking Water Regulations on a consistent long-term basis.
  • Measure 3 - Enhancement of existing schemes including water conservation (Group Water Scheme Sector): This measure supports projects to make existing group water schemes more efficient in their operation (e.g. water conservation and network upgrades, including storage) and contributing to good water quality on a consistent sustainable long-term basis.
  • Measure 4 – New Group Water Schemes: This measure supports social and economic development in rural towns and villages and their hinterlands by providing new group water schemes where public water supply schemes or individual/private wells are not the most viable option.
  • Measure 5 – Transition of Existing Group Water Schemes and Group Sewerage Schemes to the Public (Irish Water) Water Sector: This measure enables existing group water schemes and existing group sewerage schemes, where they wish to do so and with the agreement of Irish Water, to transition to the public water sector (Irish Water).
  • Measure 6 - Community Connections (Water and Waste Water): This measure facilitates the continued expansion of the coverage of piped water supplies and central waste water collection systems by extension off the public (Irish Water) network.
  • Measure 7 - Innovation and Research: This measure is aimed at issues in the rural water sector which, given the major transition of water services in Ireland, require new and innovative approaches and solutions.

For more information on the scope of these capital grants click on this link Circular L1/19.

For more information on the schemes/projects being funded under the current multi-annual programme click on this link Circular L2/19.

Capital grant funding is also available through a further measure – Measure 8 - for householders that are dependent on:

Households dependent on these services can obtain funding support for their improvement, subject to the terms and conditions, by applying to their local authority for a grant at any time. For information on funding or application forms, please contact the Rural Water Liaison Officer in your local authority.

Operational funding for Group Water Schemes

Administered by local authorities, the Programme also aims to assist - through the payment of an annual subsidy - with some of the day-to-day costs of group water schemes.

An annual subsidy per house is available to group schemes for the operational cost of providing domestic water:

  • Up to €115 per house supplied from a public (Irish Water) source;
  • Up to €231 per house supplied from a private source (well, lake, borehole etc.);
  • The cost per house where water disinfection and/or treatment is provided under a Design Build Operate (DBO) contract;
  • Up to €100 per house for schemes of less than 100 houses, that agree to advance to and progress an amalgamation and/or rationalisation strategy involving their merger into a new entity.