05 February, 2019

An update on Dublin's water

Took a trip to Wicklow yesterday for the opening of a water pipe, a €30m water pipe at Roundwood Reservoir. 

One of my heroes in the world of water is Sir John Grey. He has a statue on O'Connell Street, and this one here at Roundwood. 

He chaired Dublin Corporation's Drainage Committee in the 1860s, and knowing a reservoir would be needed in Wicklow he bought the lands in advance, and then sold them back to the city at cost to avoid speculation, a man of honour.

He also owned the Freeman's Journal, trained as a physician and was a Protestant Nationalist who sought the repeal of the Act of Union.

Fun Fact: his grandson Edmund John Chisholm Dwyer-Gray was 29th Premier of Tasmania in the 1930s.

Prior to Roundwood Reservoir's completion the Blessington Basin supplied water from 1814 to Dubliners, as well as the Jameson Distillery, but as Dublin expanded more water was needed.

Here's a picture at the Blessington Basin in Dublin's North Inner City with my @WeAreTUDublin students of environment and planning

In James Joyce’s Ulysses Leopold Bloom turns the tap to prepare a cup of cocoa for Stephan Dedalus. He makes the mistake of asking “Did it flow?” Bloom describes the entire Vartry scheme in his reply. 

Members of the Dublin Corporation enjoyed a picnic during their inspection of the Vartry waterworks in 1892. £51 16s 8d was spent, including luncheon and refreshments: a dozen bottles of Chateau Margaux, a dozen bottles of fine old Dublin whiskey and a box of cigars. 

Thankfully the local government auditor disallowed this expenditure and the Lord Chief Justice affirmed his decision. (on yesterday's trip Irish Water gave us tea and scones.)

In 1923 Alderman Staines and his colleagues from the Corporation headed down to Roundwood for an extension of the waterworks. This wonderful black and white Pathé film shows Dublin's flag being raised at the dam.

Yesterday marked the opening of a new €30m pipe and pumping station to replace the Vartry to Callowhill Link tunnel which was in danger of collapse after 150 years of use. Hopefully the old tunnel can now be rehabilitated to spare us the cost of pumping. 

There's other works in progress at Roundwood, including new slow filter beds where the water is cleaned by trickling down through fine layers of sand. 

Climate change may be reducing output as Summer droughts mean less water, and alga growth that reduce the filter capacity.

We've also got to ensure we maintain flow to the River Vartry that keeps Mount Usher gardens and farms supplied with water.

If you're interested in finding out more look out for Michael Corcoran's book 'Our Good Health' which maps out the 100 year history of Dublin's water supply. Here's a paper he gave a few years ago to Engineers Ireland.

I welcomed the launch, but said we must focus more efforts on water harvesting and conservation, as a new water supply from the Shannon will cost over a billion Euro , and use a lot of energy for pumping. Here's my few words...

Here's a link to Irish Water's information on yesterday's launch. 

And finally thanks to Ned Fleming, the engineer and waterworks superintendent who gave me a fantastic tour of the waterworks and the old valve rooms at Roundwood. Much appreciated!