Consumers and businesses can be spared the full cost of water services in the future through the early adoption by Irish Water of water recycling, energy recovery, and ‘big data’ analytics, a leading water expert said at the recent Byrne Looby Water Forum. Sam Murdock, director of water services with Byrne Looby Partners Consulting Engineers, said that Irish Water, by implementing a new approach in the treatment and delivery of water, can ensure that water infrastructure is developed without end users having to pay the full cost of water services. Murdock said it was time to think about the water we waste, not just the water we use. He also advocated the early adoption by Irish Water of world-class water treatment technologies will help to maintain the affordability of water for consumers and businesses in the years ahead, particularly as demand for water increases. The director of water services cited a range of examples of where greater efficiencies can be achieved, including:

  • Cutting the energy costs of waste water treatment facilities by up to 20% through increased energy recovery (converting waste water sludge to biogas);
  • Recycling waste water rather than disposing offshore as is currently the case (Ireland currently recycles less than 5% of its waste water, compared to 100% recycling in other countries);
  • Increased use of 'big data' analytics to improve the lifespan and cost of maintaining infrastructure assets, including water leaks (average water loss through leakage in Ireland is 40%, which is twice the UK average).
The Byrne Looby Partners Water Forum 2013 included a range of national and international speakers, including: Jeremy Pelczer, former CEO, American Water (US) and Thames Water (UK); Lawson, head of international business development, Scottish Water; Jerry Grant, head of asset management, Irish Water; and Gerry Galvin, principal adviser - water, Department of Environment, Community and Local Government. Phil Hogan TD, Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government was also present. "Water recycling, energy recovery and 'big data' analytics can contain charges for consumers and reduce costs for businesses," Murdock added. "The efficient usage of water has to be considered in any national plan to reform water service delivery. Ireland can learn a lot from international experience. Globally, the costs of water infrastructure and related service user charges are minimised by smart management of the full water cycle," he concluded.