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Northern Ireland Water’s infrastructure ‘bursting at seams’ claims NI Water Chairman

25 September 2019 10:21

Draft Strategy Launch | NI Water News

NI Water is ready to meet the challenges that lie ahead, but without the necessary funding, the infrastructure is ready to burst at the seams.  The stark message was outlined in a speech by Dr Len O’Hagan, NI Water Chairman, at the launch of the company’s Annual Report for 2018/19 and the company’s Draft Strategy 2021-2046.

Dr O’Hagan also commented:

“Without a doubt, operationally, NI Water has never been in better shape.

“Over 2018/19 we have delivered record levels of drinking water, record low pollution incidents, our lowest ever levels of supply interruptions and the best ever levels of service for our customers. This has been delivered while keeping bills affordable.

“We are embracing technology in many forms, from the use of data analytics and artificial intelligence to innovative energy procurement and generation.  As Northern Ireland’s largest energy user, we have a leadership responsibility in helping to lower the harmful Co2 emissions that are driving the climate emergency which was declared by the UK parliament on 2nd May. 


“However, we are facing a tipping point, we need to start making decisions now if we want to maintain water services that one would expect in a healthy, western European economy.


“Since we were established in 2007, the recommended level of funding from the independent Utility Regulator has been met by Government in just three of the intervening years. Underfunding of our PC15 business plan 2015-21 (£990m actual versus £1.7bn required) has already resulted in curbs to economic development with

new housing and businesses being unable to get connected to our sewerage system in around ninety-nine areas throughout the province.


Indeed, the growth of Belfast City, the primary economic engine of Northern Ireland, will struggle unless the £1bn investment in strategic drainage, under the Living with Water Programme, is supported. The City Deal risks not realising its full potential. Put bluntly, no drains means no cranes.


“However, there is a window of opportunity to invest properly in our water and sewerage infrastructure. To remain fit for purpose, we calculate that the sum is £2.5bn, including £1bn to address used water, flooding and drainage problems in Belfast alone.


“Funding at this level will not solve all of the issues, but it will allow us to address 70% of our used water capacity problems whilst protecting drinking water and enhancing environmental protection.


“Over the years, we have learnt to do more for less and have achieved some amazing results.   As Chairman of NI Water, my appeal is direct but simple, give us the funding and let us show you what we can achieve to help deliver a healthy and thriving population, a growing economy and a flourishing natural environment.”


Dr O’Hagan called for the Department for Infrastructure and the Department of Finance to develop options on how to provide good governance and sustainable financing solutions for water security in Northern Ireland by engaging with industry experts.




Some key issues/highlights outlined in the documents:


  • To provide a sense of scale, every day NI Water provides 575 million litres of great tasting, safe drinking water and recycles 340 million litres of used water back to the natural environment.  It costs around £460m each year to deliver water services in Northern Ireland.  Thousands of assets at a value of around £3bn, are operated and maintained to provide these services. This includes over 40,000km of water mains and sewers - one and a half times longer than Northern Ireland’s entire road network and long enough to circle planet earth.


  • Northern Ireland is unique within the UK as being the only part where the regulated water utility is unable to fully implement the economic regulator’s final determination due to public expenditure constraints.


  • We have developed a draft long term strategy covering the next quarter of a century (2021-2046). The strategy outlines how the use of world class approaches can successfully tackle some of the challenges over this period, most notably climate change. We are engaging with all our stakeholders over 2019 on the draft strategy to ensure that our customers remain at the heart of service delivery.



Copies of the Annual Report can be obtained online at


The Draft Strategy 2021- 2046 is available on our website at  Comments on the strategy can be made at https://www/ strategy or by emailing


Notes to Editors:


For further information, please contact NI Water’s Press Office on 02890 354710 or email

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