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Irish Independent: ‘War’ threat over bid to take lake water

Published: May 21, 2007

RESIDENTS of the midlands have threatened “all-out war” on the capital if officials attempt to take any of their water.

They have warned that any move to pump billions of gallons of water from the State’s largest lake to feed Dublin’s struggling water supply will face a “hard-fought protest”, dwarfing scenes witnessed at the Shell site in Rossport, Co Mayo.

The issue has become so hot that a new group has formed – called the Shannon Protection Alliance (SPA) – to fight any attempt by Dublin City Council to extract up to 127bn litres of water a year from Lough Ree on the Shannon.

“The last great battle of Lough Ree was recorded in 903AD, and we can assure those officials in Dublin that this battle will be fought just as hard,” spokesman PJ Walsh said.

The alliance, made up from 20 bodies – including anglers, boatmen, cruise organisers, vintners, hoteliers and concerned residents – is angry at proposals by Dublin City Council to draw 350m litres of fresh water every day from Lough Ree to feed into the capital by 2016.

The group claims such a large-scale extraction would result in “utter devastation for the Shannon basin and destroy the local economy of at least 10 counties”.

“This plan would amount to the removal of almost 20pc of the lake’s volume each year,” said Mr Walsh. “No region, economy or eco-system can be expected to endure that kind of impact.

“Hundreds of thousands of people living and working along the Shannon and Lough Ree are going to find themselves in a similar situation to the residents of Rossport, Co Mayo, where large-scale development was introduced by stealth,” said Mr Walsh.

He claims Dublin City Council has already adopted the Lough Ree scheme ahead of the alternative option of desalination of sea water from North Dublin.

Mr Walsh was referring to a report compiled for the city council last May recommending Lough Ree as “the new major water source for the greater Dublin area”.

The report considered both options but concluded that the energy costs and environmental impact of the proposed desalination scheme was too high in comparison with extraction.

“Dublin City Council appears to be taking this plan for granted. Well, it’s not going to happen,” said Mr Walsh.

Tom Leahy, Deputy City Engineer with the Dublin authority, said: “No decision has been made yet on the future sourcing of the capital’s water supply. We are examining two options – extraction from Lough Ree and a desalination programme using sea water.

“An environmental assessment report has recommended the Lough Ree Shannon scheme but we’ve called for a preliminary report before a final decision is made,” he said.

The SPA group has won the backing of election candidates in the region.

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