The Need to continue the Community Benefit to Wicklow in Return for Supplying Dublin with most of its water

Prepared by Cllr Derek Mitchell, Chair Strategic Policy Committee on Roads, Transport and Environment. 087-2574969.

February 2016

 Management Summary

Wicklow’s Community Benefit has stopped in 2015 after a century and a half. Wicklow supplies Dublin with 89% and Kildare with 75% of their water. It has been recognised since 1861 that Wicklow needed to benefit in return. A direct benefit was received or payment made for 153 years up to 2014 but this benefit has not been paid yet for 2015. It needs to be paid and put on a new permanent basis for subsequent years.

History of Community Benefit for Wicklow. The Dublin Corporation Waterworks Act 1861 and the Bray Township Act 1866, obliged Dublin City Council to provide a supply of treated drinking water to Bray and Greystones, at little or no cost in return for using Wicklow’s water from the then new Vartry scheme. The water authority for Greystones into the 1970’s was Dublin City Council who supplied and paid for the pipes and maintenance as well as the water.

This legislation was repealed, due to EU Regulations, in 2007 as detailed in the Dail Question reply by the Minister for the Environment (appendix A). From then Dublin City Council charged Wicklow about €912k a year for providing wholesale water for domestic and non-domestic users. Wicklow County Council’s annual subvention from the Local Government Fund was increased by €585k from 2008. This was paid as part of the LGF every year to 2014 to compensate for this. This arrangement diluted the 1861 Community Gain legislative commitment as it covered only half of the cost of the water and Wicklow also had to pay for the local distribution. It represented a Community Benefit of only 40% of the 1861 Act.

In 2015 the LGF subvention was replaced by the Local Property Tax and users now pay Irish Water directly for domestic and non domestic water. The Community Benefit for supplying water now needs to be paid to Wicklow County Council for 2015.

Longer Term. Irish Water has published a consultation document recommending increasing Dublin’s water supply by bringing water from the Shannon. Consultation closes on the 3rd February. This proposes to set up a Community Benefit Fund in relation to Shannon water transfer. The outline suggestion in the document is that this could be one cent per cubic metre of water supplied.  If applied to Wicklow this would be about €1.87m(appendix B) per year. As the water is currently being used it should be paid at this rate in 2016. This is about the same benefit as under the 1861 Act, calculated at between €1.5m and €2.2m in Appendix B.

The Community Benefit envisaged is to local groups and projects. However in Wicklow the effects on the area and Council finances are much more severe than in the Shannon and most should be paid to the Council. Also Irish Water envisages a once-off payment for major capital projects in the area.

Why Wicklow County Council should benefit. The Wicklow Mountains are why there is so much surplus water in Wicklow. They have made it difficult to attract industry to Wicklow because one can’t build in the mountains and also there are poor transport links across the mountains. This means that the Council has a low commercial rates base with which to provide services.

Dublin and Kildare have been able to attract substantial industry, including water intensive industries such as Intel and pharma plants, using water from Wicklow, and they thus have substantial rates bases and Property Tax income to provide services.

Development Restrictions. The Blessington Lake with 34 miles circumference is the largest manmade lake in Europe. For a very wide area surrounding this the Water Authority (previously Dublin City Council now Irish Water) imposes major restrictions on developments in Wicklow. This has stopped the settlements of Valleymount, Lacken, Manor Kilbride and part of Holywood expanding. Blessington is hemmed in between the artificial lake on the West and Kildare on the East side. Similar issues apply to the Roundwood area. Equivalent settlements in Kildare, often further from Dublin, such as Clane, Nass, Kildare, Kilcock have been able to expand as they are not restricted by the restrictions inherent in supplying the region with water. Industry and hotels have also been restricted and if permitted are required to put in expensive (both to install and run) sewerage treatment. This acts as a major disincentive to employment. One off houses are also restricted much to the annoyance of local people.

Direct costs to the County Council. There are also significant costs maintaining the roads, fire services and other services in this sparsely populated core of County Wicklow which covers about 70% of the County area. For example the Council’s Municipal District of West Wicklow, which has much of the water catchment area, has an expenditure of €6m which is €2.5m greater than the Greystones/Kilcoole MD expenditure of €3.5m. These areas have the same population. There is also extra centrally budgeted expenditure dealing with upland issues.

Severe Disturbance on setting up Blessington lakes. This was done during the Emergency in the 1940’s and would not have been able to be done in peacetime due to the bad effect on locals. Farmers were shifted from the fertile alluvial soils in the valley floor to the higher less fertile lands. Compensation was only paid at low forestry land prices and if appealed the amount was generally lowered.  Some people had to bring the graves of their ancestors to higher land.

Most reservoirs have the ground partly levelled before flooding. This was not done here and houses, barns, trees, churches, fences were left standing. This makes some water sports dangerous and much is banned limiting the recreational and sports business use.

Commercial Rates on Water plants. The rates of about €100k on the Vartry plant were paid to Wicklow and the Ballymore Eustace and Leixlip plants, which are each 4 or 5 times larger in capacity were paid to Kildare.  From 2015 Irish Water was declared exempt from rates. Even that benefit has been removed from the County producing the water.

Dublin councils have major rates income and LPT to provide services. Dublin has 23 times more rate income than Wicklow for a population only 9 times larger. Even Kildare has €29m more (i.e. double see appendix B) commercial rates than Wicklow to provide services to the County which is smaller in area. None of this tax income would be possible without Wicklow’s water. Wicklow has the costs of keeping the water collection area but has a very limited rates and LPT income because of it.

Dublin people benefit from the lakes and mountains.  A large majority of the many people visiting the water catchment area are from Dublin and being day visitors spend little in the County. They are welcome but the cost of providing facilities (roads, car parks, litter collection, dog wardens, paths, gritting in ice, Civil Defence etc.) falls on Wicklow County Council.


Appendix A. Dail Question.

558. Deputy Andrew Doyle  asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government    the legislation governing charges for [1986]water supplied to Wicklow from Wicklow reservoirs; when it was introduced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29845/07]

Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government (Deputy John Gormley):   General legal authority to charge for water supplies derives from section 65A of the Public Health (Ireland) Act 1878, inserted by section 7 of the Local Government (Sanitary Services) Act 1962 (as amended). Additional legislation applying to Wicklow, including the Dublin Corporation Waterworks Act 1861 and the Bray Township Act 1866, obliges Dublin City Council to provide a supply of treated drinking water to Bray and Greystones, at little or no cost which is in breach of Ireland’s obligations under the EU Water Framework Directive.

This legislation is being repealed under the Water Services Act 2007, and replaced by a modern legislative code requiring water services authorities to charge for the full cost of providing water services to non-domestic users. It is understood that Dublin City Council intends to continue providing water supplies to Wicklow County Council, but at appropriate rates of charge phased in as transitional arrangements and ultimately reflecting the true cost of supply. My Department is also in contact with Wicklow County Council with a view to adjusting the annual subvention from the Local Government Fund to take account of the revised financial arrangements.


Acknowledgement of assistance provided by:

Bryan Doyle                            Chief Executive Wicklow County Council

Lorraine Lynch                       Head of Finance

Michael Geaney                      Director of Services

Councillor Jim Ruttle


Appendix B: figures

Irish Water. Wicklow Community Gain.
Percentage of Greater Dublin Water Supply Area which comes from Wicklow
2015 Ml/d % from Wicklow Quantity from Wicklow
Ballymore Eustace 310 100% 310
Leixlip 215 90% 194
Vartry 65 100% 65
Total Capacity including other 623 91% 569
It is assumed that 10% of water in the Liffey at Leixlip is from non Wicklow sources.
Capacity from Irish Water Project Need Report
Water Supply Area
Percentage of Population by County supplied by Greater Dublin Water Supply Area
% from Wicklow Counties % from Wicklow
Dublin 98% 91 89
Kildare 82% 91 75
Wicklow 50% 91 46
Meath 12% 91 11
Comparison of Income of Wicklow and Kildare Councils and County Dublin.
Wicklow Kildare
Commercial rates €M 28 57
Local Property Tax €M 10 12.4
Area km2 2027 1695
Population K 137 210
Dublin Commercial Rates Income: South Dublin 118, DLR 79, Fingal 116, DCC 320. Total €633m
Dublin’s Population is 1.3m. Rate income is 23 times higher than Wicklow for a population 9 times higher.

Calculation of Wicklow’s Community Gain per Irish Water document

Total water used in Dublin Region per day is 535 ml per day less Wicklow usage of 22 is 513 ML
at 1c per CuM is €5130 per day or €1.87m per year.

Calculation of Wicklow’s Community Gain per 1861 Act on a modern basis.
‘supply of treated drinking water to Bray and Greystones, at little or no cost’.

Wholesale Water Cost about €1.5m
cost of maintaining pipes, repairing leaks, installing new pipes etc. say €600,000
Water Bills paid to Dublin City Council €913,000

Retail Water Cost about €2.2m
Bray and Greystones have a population of about 45,000 and about 17,000 houses.
The water charge is capped at €130 so the average charge would be over €70.
This gives an income of €1.2m. A guestimate of the non domestic charge would be €1m.
A total cost of €2.2m. Irish Water will have these figure exactly.

At one stage it was envisaged a charge of €3.70 per 1,000 litres which would probably give a higher figure.

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