The National Federation of Group Water Schemes have collected data on Ireland’s privately-managed Group Water Schemes over the last 20 years. This has been done on the ground, by the organisation’s development staff, and through an annual affiliation fee form filled out by the schemes. While other data on Group Water Schemes do exist (from the Geological Survey of Ireland and at the local county council level), to our knowledge the NFGWS dataset is the most complete.
Earlier this year, the NFGWS shared with us a selection of their data for 348 GWSs. It includes attributes for geographical location, number of domestic connections, source type and whether or not the scheme is in a Design, Build and Operate (DBO) contract with a third-party provider such as Glan Agua or Veolia. The data has been mapped and visualised below using Mapbox. A full-screen version of the map is accessible here.
Even from this simple thematic map some interesting things about GWSs can be identified.
Firstly, outside Counties Cavan, Mayo and Monaghan, the vast majority of group water schemes abstract their water from groundwater sources, such as boreholes and springs. In County Mayo, many schemes source their water from lakes, however due to the predominance of karst limestone in this part of the country, these water systems should be regarded as mixed surfacewater and groundwater.
Secondly, many of the groundwater schemes have a smaller number of domestic connections than do the surfacewater schemes. While there are many springs in the country with a high flow rate, wells and boreholes will typically have a far lower yield, meaning that less connections can be supported.
Finally, many of these smaller groundwater schemes (particularly between Galway and Wexford) are not currently in a DBO contract. The NFGWS have informed us that one of the biggest challenges presently facing the sector is that many smaller schemes are struggling to manage their network and maintain water quality. Without a consistent, high-yield source it is not always feasible for a GWS to enter into a DBO contract. In such instances, the NFGWS is encouraging schemes to rationalise their management structures and where possible amalgamate their physical networks.