NI Water faces ‘inevitable’ £51m funding pressure that puts services at risk

Northern Ireland’s sole water provider is facing ‘inevitable’ financial pressures in the form of tens of millions of pounds shortfall.

Infrastructure Minister John O’Dowd placed the blame on the DUP for its refusal to re-enter the executive branch.

NI Water is the largest consumer of electricity in the country and has been heavily impacted by rising energy prices.

Mr O’Dowd said the situation left the company facing an “inevitable £51m resource gap”.

“The cost of energy remains extremely volatile and so this pressure could change,” he added.

“My department continues to engage with the Treasury regarding its financial situation, however DUP’s refusal to form an executive means the £420m funds held at the center cannot be released and I cannot bid for funding. during a year.

“The executive lockdown also means that a three-year budget cannot be agreed upon, making it extremely difficult to plan future investments for my department.”

Alliance infrastructure spokesman Andrew Muir criticized the situation.

“As NI Water is the largest consumer of electricity in Northern Ireland, it is not surprising that they are facing a huge increase in energy costs that need to be covered if we are to ensure a continuous supply of clean drinking water and wastewater treatment,” he said. said.

“It is nothing short of outrageous that NI Water is struggling to pay these bills, but with nearly half a billion pounds held centrally and unable to be spent on these unavoidable costs due to the DUP holding back Northern Ireland residents. in order to obtain a ransom.

“The ongoing DUP veto to restore the Assembly and the Executive is hurting people and jeopardizing the continued provision of essential public services such as NI Water and must be stopped.”

Ulster MLA union member Steve Aiken said: “The pressure on NI Water has increased over the past few years; in almost every round of monitoring, it was necessary to find additional resources only to pay for basic expenses – and this is up to a huge increase in electricity costs.

“It is clear that at the current level the water utility is not viable; that he has an “inevitable” pressure of £51m this year should be alarming throughout government. In the recent elections, we called in our manifesto for NI Water to be mutual and sustainable. Today’s announcement simply shows how urgent reforms are needed.”

Last December, former Infrastructure Minister Nicola Mallon warned that NI Water’s financial plight could jeopardize service delivery. Since then, things have deteriorated financially.

“Rising energy costs have threatened the sustainability of efficient and efficient water and sanitation services, with potential detrimental effects on the provision of this important public health utility,” she said.

“Given that just over four months remain before the end of the financial year, it is clear that this level funding pressure cannot be absorbed by my department’s budget without major repercussions and significant repercussions.

“Unless additional funding comes in, cutbacks in services will inevitably be required, and the biggest impact is likely to be in wastewater treatment, creating possible pollution and environmental impacts.”

She warned that while NI Water will take every possible step to protect the drinking water supply, loss of some services cannot be ruled out. This includes supply restrictions, interruptions and the quality of piped drinking water.