In full flow: Irish Water homes in on connections and service delivery
27 November 2018
Irish Water’s Tadhg O’Connor outlines the steps being taken to enhance the provision of customer services at the national utility.
Prior to 2014, individuals or developers requiring water and/or wastewater service connections for homes, businesses or developments applied to their local authority.
Following the establishment of Irish Water as the national water utility in January 2014, responsibility for delivery of water and wastewater services, including providing connections, in the Republic of Ireland transferred from local authorities to Irish Water. Since then we have been working hard to improve the delivery of services to our customers.
Connection and developer services
Irish Water’s Connections and Developer Services is responsible for providing water services connections to new developments. Our focus is on delivering a consistent top class service to customers who are seeking connections to our water and wastewater networks.
We are regionally based with offices in the greater Dublin, southern and northwest regions. We work in close partnership with local authorities, whose local knowledge and expertise are invaluable in the delivery of our services.
We apply particular importance to ensuring that water services infrastructure within self-lay development estates achieves an acceptable standard to avoid excessive water leakage and other structural deficiencies. Self-lay refers to water services infrastructure that is installed directly by developers and which is subsequently adopted and vested in Irish Water.
We are now well advanced in our plan to streamline and improve the provision of our services to customers seeking water service connections. Local authority personnel are closely involved in these improvements. I outline below the key achievements to date and the future delivery of this plan.
We have established a pre-connection enquiry (PCE) process allowing developers to establish at an early stage in planning if water services can be provided from our networks to their sites.
This is a free service and results in the provision of a confirmation of feasibility (COF) indicating what service we can provide at that time or if infrastructure works are required to provide additional capacity. This is important as it provides confidence to developers that their site can be serviced.
The COF can be submitted with any subsequent planning application to show that engagement with Irish Water has taken place. The PCE forms are available on our website at www.water.ie/connections/.
We encourage the use of our PCE process for all development but it is mandatory for those comprising more than 100 residential units or 200 student units which are using the strategic housing development fast-track planning process.
Irish Water is now the single point of contact for customers seeking new water and/or wastewater connections. We have a single connection application process on our website at www.water.ie/connections/.
Previously, there were varying standards that developers used for the provision of water and wastewater infrastructure. We now have a single set of national technical standards, comprising standard details and codes of practice.
Compliance with these standard requirements is mandatory since mid-2016 for the provision of water and wastewater infrastructure in new developments where this is being provided by the developer using a self-lay approach.
These technical documents are available on our website for viewing and downloading. These national standards mean that developers, no matter where they are located, will apply a consistent approach in the design and construction of water services infrastructure.
Enhanced quality assurance
Historically, varying levels of quality assurance (QA) were applied to developer installed water and wastewater infrastructure. We now apply consistent QA measures for self-lay infrastructure involving engaging with developers and inspecting the design and construction phases of water and wastewater infrastructure before connection to our networks. We will facilitate the adoption/vesting of these assets upon connection.
Our vetting of developers designs started in mid-2016. Developers are encouraged to submit their design proposals as early as possible to us, either directly or by e-mail: email@example.com.
The on-site QA measures for water services construction is enabled by our self-lay connection agreement, which is in use since April 2018. Developers who have an agreement can arrange field inspections by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 1850 238238.
Full connection service
We are mobilising eight regional contractors (RCs) to undertake the connection of new infrastructure to our networks using standardised processes and systems.
They will operate where local authority staff can not provide the full range of connection works but would historically require customers to undertake part or all of the physical connection works themselves.
Currently, our contractors are mobilised in a number of local authority areas and this will continue through 2018. The installation of private side connection works, however, will remain the responsibility of the customer.
National connection charges
Prior to the establishment of Irish Water, local authorities had their own charging policy for the provision of water services connections and we have continued to apply these connection charges as they were in place on January 1, 2014.
Some of these charges cover the full range of providing connection while others reflect the customer undertaking part of the connection works. We are working with the Commission for Regulations of Utilities (CRU) to put in place a new enduring national connection charging policy, which will reflect a full connection service without the need for the customer to undertake any of the connection works in public areas.
It will replace the current systems where there are 54 different charging regimes across the country with different tariff structures and more than 500 different tariff levels.
The CRU held a 10-week public consultation in early 2018. Following this, the CRU has considered the feedback received and intends to engage in a second round of public consultation in the near future after which it will announce its proposed decision.
Diversion of and building over our existing networks
It is prohibited to interfere with, alter or divert our networks without our specific approval. Diversions may be required if a public water main or sewer crosses a development site and its alteration is required to facilitate construction.
Connections and Developer Services manage diversions of our networks and contact should be made with us if a diversion of water services infrastructure is required. A diversion application should be made to us if the relocation of such infrastructure is required.
We will contact the developer/customer regarding the application and, if acceptable, offer a diversion agreement. Only in very limited circumstances will build over of our networks be allowed. To find out more please visit our website or e-mail email@example.com
Taking in charge of existing networks
We are working in collaboration with local authorities to manage the taking in charge of water and wastewater infrastructure within existing housing developments where this has not been undertaken to date. This is achieved in line with an agreed memorandum of understanding.
We also facilitate the taking in charge of group scheme infrastructure where this infrastructure is connected to our networks.
Our priority is to tackle the poor quality infrastructure that was installed heretofore. Our technical guidance and quality assurance is aimed at addressing these deficiencies and to avoid excessive water leakage and other structural deficiencies going forward.
We will deliver a best in class level of service to our customers by proactively engaging with our stakeholders, to determine their needs and to adapt and implement business change to address any reasonable requests that are within our control.
We engage with stakeholders through national and regional based events, workshop and forums or directly with individuals via our regional offices. Our development liaison officers also engage proactively with significant developers to support housing provision.
Post: Irish Water, PO Box 860, South City Delivery Office, Cork
Connections: Telephone: 1850 238238
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org (for Pre-Connection Enquiry Submissions and Connection Applications)
Email: email@example.com (for Design Submissions to IW)
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org (for submission of a Commencement Notices and requesting field inspection meetings)
Site inspection: Telephone: 1850 238238
Author: Tadhg O’Connor is Irish Water’s policy and standard specialist with the Connections and Developer Services department. He worked with Engineering Consultancies, the Department of Environment and Local Government before joining Irish Water in early 2014.http://www.engineersjournal.ie/2018/11/27/in-full-flow-irish-water-homes-in-on-connections-and-service-delivery/http://www.engineersjournal.ie/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/a-aaaawater.jpghttp://www.engineersjournal.ie/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/a-aaaawater-300x300.jpgCivilIrish Water,local authorities,water