GWS Excellence Awards winners in focus: Ballinabranna GWS

Ballinabranna GWS manager, Gail Fitzgerald (centre - holding trophy), pictured alongside NFGWS staff, Eugene Cummins ( centre - Roscommon County Council) and the GWS Excellence Awards judging panel.

For Ballinabranna GWS, quality assurance (QA) and water safety planning is all about setting daily standards from source to tap.

The Carlow group water scheme was proud to be crowned a category winner in the GWS Excellence Awards 2022, a fitting reward for a GWS that has greatly evolved since it was founded in the 1960s. Reacting at the time, its chairperson, John Alcock, said:

‘Our group water scheme was delighted to achieve this award in acknowledgement of the work done on a daily basis to sure quality water is provided to all our members.’

Since drilling a new borehole and joining the South Leinster DBO bundle in 2008, Ballinabranna GWS has become increasingly professional in its operations. Gail Fitzgerald has been the GWS’s general manager since January 2019, having previously served as administrator.

Her appointment was another important step in future-proofing the group water scheme and ensuring the implementation of a robust QA system.

‘From pumping the water from the borehole, chlorinating the water at the treatment plant, storing it at the reservoir, and distributing it around the network to finally reach each shareholder’s tap, there are controls in place at each critical control point and tests carried out along the way to ensure all is in order,’ explains Gail.

Water conservation

The GWS reads members’ meters four times per year to help keep levels of unaccounted-for-water under control. The use of technology has made this task relatively straight forward:

‘Over the years, the committee has had the vision to continually replace the watermain pipework, which ensures we have low levels of leaks and helps to prevent contamination. Advances in technology in the last number of years have allowed us to gain a better picture of the scheme from a desk perspective.

‘Since 2020, we have our scheme fully mapped, which helps greatly when trying to find a meter or pipework. Most of our network is metered. Each connection has a meter attached and automatic meter reading (AMR) technology allows us to read nearly all meters in a matter of hours.’

By creating 16 district meter areas, with accompanying telemetry, it also allows the GWS to quickly narrow down sections of its distribution network in the event of leak. Its 2022 win was not its first honour at the GWS Excellence Awards, having previously won an excellence flag for ‘water demand management and climate action’. The GWS has no plans to rest on its laurels, however.

Ballinabranna GWS’s excellence flags proudly flying at its treatment plant in County Carlow.

As Gail explains, it will continue to enhance its water safety planning approach and, in doing so, encourage members of the community to become more water-aware:

‘In 2022 we gave a presentation to the local primary school children. We hope to make this an annual event, as education of the younger generation on where their water comes from, along with awareness of usage and wastage, are all key to helping us to be sustainable in the longer term.

‘We are working to futureproof the scheme by installing some hardware which would allow us to connect to a generator at the treatment plant, should the need ever arise. We also hope to install turbidity monitors in order to have 24/7 visibility of water quality and which would react automatically to any deterioration in water.’

The application window the GWS Excellence Awards 2023 is now open. For more information on how to apply, click here.

This article originally featured in the most recent edition of the Rural Water News magazine. To read the full edition and to sign up to our magazine mailing list, click here.