Improving the water network and preventing flooding are two major priorities for the environmental strand of the Investment Strategy.
The bulk of environmental infrastructure spending (91.6 per cent) will go into water and waste water, with most generated from the block grant in the absence of domestic charges. Despite its unpopularity as a policy, the introduction of charging would free up more money for investment elsewhere in government.
A “significant element” of flood risk remains after previous investments in defences, which have protected 334 homes. Around one in 18 properties are at risk of either coastal or river flooding and two-thirds of these premises still need to be protected by adequate defences. Government planning has moved forward under the EU Floods Directive but reservoirs still need to be regulated.
Achievements have included the Belfast sewers project (£160 million), which was started in 2005 and opened in May 2010. Another £80 million has been invested in the water mains rehabilitation programme, which has resulted in 1,000km of mains piping being laid to date. The Alpha and Omega publicprivate partnerships have improved the treatment of water and waste water respectively.
The document acknowledges “a degree of slippage at project level” for strategic waste infrastructure (agendaNi issue 54, pages 94-95) but predicts that overall programme will achieve its objectives for diverting waste from landfill. The formation of the three waste management groups is listed as a key achievement since 2008, although the most recent group was formed in 2003.
Separately, the Rivers Agency has published a strategic flood map for river basins and coastal areas, improved existing flood defences and culverts, and established a Bill team to develop legislation on reservoir safety.
Looking ahead, the water investment will be allocated to new trunk mains, small treatment works, and mains rehabilitation, and the reduction of “unsatisfactory” sewage discharges and leakage from the system.
The Rivers Agency will continue to implement the Floods Directive through the regional flood risk assessment, flood risk management plans for Belfast and other areas, and detailed flood mapping for areas at significant risk.
Construction and maintenance of flood defences will continue and the agency will also prioritise the repair of culverts, as collapses can put members of the public at risk. The Department of the Environment’s ongoing Rethink Waste fund also forms part of the investment, and the department will continue to work with local authorities to ensure that the strategic waste projects are delivered.
|Water and waste water||668||600||1,268|
|Flood risk management||17||45||62|