The flood maps generated by the National Catchment Flood Risk Assessment and Management (CFRAM) Programme should be published and the Flood Studies Update Portal should be launched as a priority over the next 12 months, according to a report published this week by Engineers Ireland.
Marking the beginning of Engineers Week 2014, which runs until Saturday 15 February, the report found that Ireland’s water infrastructure is inadequately maintained as it is unable to meet peak demand and needs investment. Titled ‘The State of Ireland 2013 – a review of infrastructure in Ireland’, the report stated that although Ireland retains many natural advantages and even though investment over the last decade has helped to improve water quality, challenges remain – not least in flood protection and in mitigating the effects of climate change.
As part of its five-year recommendations, The State of Ireland said that unaccounted-for water must be reduced to 30% nationally and the carbon footprint of water services should be reduced by 20%. Preparation of the Catchment Flood Risk Management Plans (under the National CFRAM Programme) must be completed by 2015, it added.
“Our island nation on the edge of the Atlantic has always been subject to extreme weather but with increased incidences of severe flooding, coupled with storm damage to electrical and communications networks, we have witnessed first-hand just how vital robust infrastructure is to the smooth running of modern Irish society,” according to the report. “Failure to maintain and invest in vital infrastructural services can only increase Ireland’s vulnerability to disruptive events.”
Exporting our residual waste is not an outcome on which Ireland should rely in the long term and can only result in missed opportunities to generate energy and create jobs, the report also found. It once again stated that Ireland also struggles to meet peak demand in transport. Both communications and energy infrastructure were found to be properly maintained and of acceptable standard, but requiring investment according to the Engineers Ireland assessment.
The report, which uses a grading system applied by expert members of Engineers Ireland, analyses five key areas of Ireland’s infrastructure: communications, energy, transport, waste and water. Communications infrastructure, allocated a ‘B+’ grade, achieved the best mark of the five areas evaluated but remained unchanged from 2013.
Energy was also unchanged, with a ‘B’ grade. Waste dropped from a ‘B-‘ to ‘C’ and flooding from a ‘C’ to ‘D’. None of the sectors assessed achieved the highest possible ‘A’ grade.
Speaking at the launch of the report, John Power, director general of Engineers Ireland, acknowledged the ongoing economic challenges faced by the country and the need to prioritise the recommendations in the report. “Investment in economic infrastructure will always generate a positive payback and the reality is capital investment is vital to meet the Government’s desire to stimulate the economy,” said Power.
“This report recognises the infrastructural challenges facing the country but also acknowledges that some of those are opportunities for job creation providing us with a much needed economic boost.”
The report calls for the construction of more waste-to-energy facilities in Ireland, stating that the lack of infrastructure means that Ireland has to pay for its hazardous waste to be exported. Waste-to-energy facilities in the Netherlands, Belgium and in Scandinavia generate electricity and heat from the waste as well creating green jobs for these economies.
Other recommendations include improved national road networks between cities on the west coast, as well as developing initiatives to encourage commuters to switch from their cars to other sustainable modes of transport in urban areas. A new funding mechanism for national road projects has to be developed.
The report calls for the advancement of the Electronic Communications Network Bill and the roll out of the 4G mobile communications network to help increase speeds in satellite towns and alleviate the broadband gaps that exist in rural Ireland respectively. The commencement of the water metering programme should help progress investment in water infrastructure and the launch of the flood studies update portal and the flood maps are called for in the short term future.
Engineers Week, which runs until Saturday 15 February, is a week-long programme of nationwide events run by Engineers Ireland with the aim of celebrating the world of engineering in Ireland. Over 500 events are taking place nationwide over the course of the week. To find out more information about events taking place near you, or to register your attendance, log onto www.engineersweek.ie.