GWS Excellence Awards winners in focus: The Heath GWS

The Heath GWS caretaker, John Delaney, and chairperson, Noel Boyle.

Ann Keys, secretary of The Heath GWS, has described the scheme’s win in the inaugural GWS Excellence Awards as an honour and a ‘moment of great triumph.’

Situated 5km outside of Portlaoise, the scheme was established in 1964 and has grown from an initial 40 connections to just over 400 today. Speaking in the build-up to the GWS Excellence Awards online ceremony, Ann remarked on how the scheme is particularly proud that its win has come in the category of ‘Water Safety Planning and Quality Assurance’ — an area all involved take very seriously.

Water Safety Planning

The Heath GWS spring source is fed by groundwater from a karstified bedrock aquifer. Recognising source protection as the first port-of-call in ensuring quality drinking water, the GWS has fenced off its spring and purpose-built pumphouse site.

Abstraction and overflow measuring devices provide invaluable information on water level variance, while the scheme undertook a year of monthly raw water monitoring as part of its water safety planning approach. It subsequently monitors raw water quality four times per year for any seasonal changes.

Householders in the area are regularly reminded about the importance of maintaining their domestic wastewater treatment systems, while the scheme also has a great working relationship with the two farmers located within its zone of contribution.

Quality assurance

The scheme’s use of technology is particularly impressive, both in terms of water treatment and quality assurance on the network. Its pumping and chlorine dosing systems are fully automated and provide online data and alarms, while the plant is also equipped with an auto-shutdown system.

A network chlorine analyser, along with online metering in each of its eight district metered areas, provides a wealth of QA data that is backed up by boots-on-the ground monitoring. With all meters read five times per year, leaks are quickly detected and rectified.

Should any water quality incidents occur, the GWS has a robust standard operating procedure in place, including draft boil water and do not use notices. A new text alert system also enhances the scheme’s ability to contact members swiftly.


While proud of its achievements to date, the scheme is always looking to the future, as Ann explains:

The scheme is currently engaging with the NFGWS to be-come more actively involved in climate action and biodiversity projects in the locality.

We are also actively seeking funding to replace some of our existing network, together with exploring the possibility of installing an alternative energy supply system to improve our carbon footprint and to reduce our annual running costs.

The co-operative ethos has been to the fore since the scheme’s foundation, with Ann acknowledging those involved in its establishment almost 60 years ago. She concluded:

‘We would also like to share our triumphant moment with those who have been with us every step of the way: the NFGWS, who are always available for help, advice and training; our fantastic engineers; the staff in the Laois County Council Water Services Section and Laboratory; our service contract companies; and of course, our caretaker.’

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.