NI Water reveals a ‘rock solid’ solution to obtaining a sustainable water supply by tapping into Earth’s most hidden asset, groundwater. A long term, resilient water supply is a top priority for the company, which is why they are using boreholes to access this sustainable water supply.
Groundwater is perfect as it is stored underneath the earth’s surface and is a largely unused water source in Northern Ireland. It is also naturally filtered through rocks so requires minimal treatment to make it drinkable. NI Water is using solar panels for abstraction and treatment of the water which will offset electricity usage and activated filter media (recycled glass) to ensure it is treated to drinking standards. Overall, this innovative solution will not only provide water in all weathers but reduces chemical use and carbon.
Mark Herron, Project Manager explains, “While much of Northern Ireland’s water supply is captured on higher ground through reservoirs, a significant proportion is drawn from lower lying loughs and rivers. This water often requires more treatment and pumping which increases emissions from fossil fuel generated electricity. We have also seen several unusually long dry spells and elevated temperatures, which create periods of exceptionally high demand for water. As a result, NI Water has faced increased water supply challenges and has been actively looking for a solution using boreholes.
“We are lucky that in Northern Ireland we have a special source of water that is largely untapped. Whilst it is limited, it has the potential to help us to supply customers at peak periods and help address climate change by using less energy and lowering our harmful CO2 emissions.”
Minister Mallon comments, “We are in the grip of a climate emergency. From record temperatures in the 30s and water shortages one day, to torrential thunderstorms and flooding the next, the extreme weather events being experienced here and around the world are a stark reminder that we must act now to protect our environment.
“As a society we need to think and act differently and this includes the value of water - one of our most precious resources. I commend NI Water in looking at innovative solutions by sourcing groundwater as a way to provide drinking water to customers in the future. By proactively exploring this natural resource it will hopefully provide an environmentally friendly solution to assist at times of pressure when demand on water supply outstrips the normal supply such as what we experienced during the extreme heat this summer.”
The geological formations which contain groundwater in Sherwood Sandstone aquifers are known to provide high quality water and so NI Water have started there.
Mark continues, “Sherwood Sandstone is a geological feature highly unusual in Europe. In collaboration with The Geological Survey of Northern Ireland, NI Water is now planning to tap into this source as it strengthens its water supply resilience.
“The Sherwood Sandstone aquifers contain groundwater that has been naturally filtered, providing a high quality, sustainable local water source which only needs minimal treatment before drinking.
Hydrogeologist Paul Wilson of The Geological Survey of Northern Ireland concludes, “Over a period that could be as long as one hundred years, Sherwood Sandstone can act as a great natural filter of water, providing a high quality, sustainable local water source that enables environmental benefits from lowering the use of electricity that can otherwise be required in pumping.
“Globally and across Europe, there is growing uncertainty over climate change and the sustainability of water resources for both public supply and private industry. Northern Ireland is uniquely placed, having a surplus of groundwater resources that are unlikely to be impacted as negatively by climate change as other climate zones. Importantly, Northern Ireland also has a robust regulatory system, due to the enactment of the EU Water Framework Directive, for ensuring that this valuable resource is not overused or contaminated.”
Testing has already begun in Lisburn and Moneymore to assess the potential for groundwater sources and has showed promising signs. NI Water is now looking forward to working with the quality and environmental regulators in the Drinking Water Inspectorate and NIEA to realise the full potential at these locations.
Pictured at Moneymore Borehole test site is NI Water’s Mark Herron, Project Manager, Trevor Cousins Water Efficiency & Innovation Manager and Thomas McLaughlin, Clinty Chemicals (supplier of glass media filters) with clean, local groundwater. By 2022, this naturally filtered source will supply the town of Moneymore with all their water needs.
Pictured at Moneymore Borehole test site is NI Water’s Mark Herron, Project Manager and Trevor Cousins, Water Efficiency & Innovation Manager, with glasses of clean, local groundwater. By 2022, this naturally filtered source will supply the town of Moneymore with all their water needs.
NI Water has an ambitious strategy to help society address the climate emergency and become carbon neutral by 2050. As Northern Ireland’s single largest electricity consumer, the goal is to fully explore new approaches to energy and this project will help us towards that goal.