Water pipes are used to transport water, heat and waste, but they also contain other useful elements such as electrical wiring, pipes, valves and piping fittings.
The pipes themselves are also subject to pressure and temperature fluctuations that cause corrosion and deterioration, and it is this that poses a problem in areas such as Ireland where the climate is changing rapidly.
It’s a problem that can be exacerbated by high levels of pollution and sewage treatment.
A recent study by the Irish National Institute of Water Resources and Environmental Research (INRIF) shows that the amount of pipe used to supply the country’s 1.2 million households is projected to grow by a factor of three over the next 20 years.
This would have a major impact on Ireland’s water supply.
A report released in April 2018 by the US-based Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and the European Environment Agency (EEA) estimated that Ireland’s annual water consumption is expected to reach 8,600 cubic metres by 2026, up from the previous estimate of 6,200 cubic metres.
This is equivalent to about 4.5 million cubic metres of water.
“This means Ireland could see a doubling of its water consumption by 2060, which would add up to a major reduction in the countrys water supply,” said Dr Daniel O’Connor, the report’s lead author.
“We need to rethink the way we provide water for our citizens.”
The report also highlights the urgent need for more efficient and cost-effective ways of distributing water.
As Ireland grapples with a severe drought and a worsening global warming, a study by INRIF, EEA and others found that water quality in Ireland’s rivers and streams is deteriorating rapidly, with the country currently ranked 30th in the world.
The study found that in areas with high concentrations of bacteria, there is a significant decrease in the water quality of the river and stream system.
These levels are also rising in areas that have low levels of bacteria.
In areas with low levels, there was also a significant increase in the concentration of bacteria in the soil and sediment.
It is estimated that if Ireland continues to increase its use of large pipes and water gravity pipes to supply large swathes of its population, the country will be on the verge of an unprecedented water crisis by the year 2070.
“Water pipes can also serve as a bridge for people to access services that they might otherwise not be able to access in other parts of the country,” said Michael Kelly, an assistant professor of engineering at the University of Limerick.
“They also act as a lifeline for many of Ireland’s older and vulnerable residents, who may not be in areas where there is no water.
These pipes also provide a vital link between rural communities and the wider community, with communities who live close to the pipes experiencing better water quality and a reduced risk of disease.”
With the number of Irish households that rely on large water pipes falling by more than 60% since the mid-1990s, it is important that Ireland continues working towards a water system that is sustainable and can deliver the water that our citizens need.
“In an effort to address the increasing pressure on water supplies, INRIGF, EDE and the Irish Water Management Agency have been working to develop a plan to replace Ireland’s large-scale water pipes with smaller, more efficient, and cost effective solutions.
The plans aim to provide Ireland with a more efficient water supply, improve the quality of water and reduce water pollution.
“For example, the pipes that are being used to distribute water to Dublin and other cities should be made of stronger materials to prevent corrosion and weaken pipes over time. “
The first step towards addressing the problems we are facing is to ensure that all the infrastructure in Ireland is capable of providing a water supply that meets the needs of its people and the environment,” said O’Connell.
“For example, the pipes that are being used to distribute water to Dublin and other cities should be made of stronger materials to prevent corrosion and weaken pipes over time.
It should also be made available to communities that need it most, as we are losing water from the land due to agricultural activities.”
The next step will be to look at ways to reduce the impact of pollution on water and ensure that Ireland is able to deliver a sustainable, clean, and safe water supply for the next generation.