Just 38% of funding allocated to the group water scheme sector under the Multi-annual Rural Water Programme (MARWP) 2019-2021 had been drawn down as the cycle passed its original closing date on the 31st December.
Although the late announcement of allocations and the Covid-19 pandemic caused obvious delays to the completion of capital projects, the total drawdown figure of €22.5m out of an allocation to the GWS sector of almost €59m is nevertheless alarming — particularly given that drawdown levels during 2021 were scarcely higher than 2020 despite the easing of restrictions (€9.7m vs €8.4m).
The Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage (DHLGH) had previously acknowledged the impact of the pandemic by extending the deadline for the completion of approved projects to the end of 2022.
Speaking about the programme, NFGWS CEO, Barry Deane, remarked:
The onus is on group water schemes and local authorities to work together and do everything possible to make sure that these projects are completed on time. The NFGWS is available to assist wherever it can in ensuring project delivery and we once again urge all stakeholders to accelerate efforts.
Next programme cycle
With the completion of these approved projects prioritised for 2022, the DHLGH has confirmed its intention to extend the next cycle of the MARWP. The Department informed the NFGWS at their quarterly meeting in February that it now intends that the programme will run over a four year period 2022–2025.
This extension will help ensure sufficient time to complete the bidding, evaluation and allocation process this year, while still providing a full, three-year period to deliver approved projects. Therefore, work to complete projects funded under the 2019–2021 cycle will run in tandem with the application and bidding process for the next programme.
Although the publication of the final MAWRP framework is still awaited, group water schemes that are considering making an application for funding under the next programme should have their proposal well advanced at this point. GWSs are reminded to ensure that bids are targeted and justified, and that they acquire the help of external expertise where needed.
During his opening address at the Water Ireland Conference on the 28th April, Minister Darragh O’Brien TD reiterated his support for the rural water programme and the NFGWS.
New funding measure
Minister O’Brien also announced the launch of a new funding measure under the next MARWP cycle, aimed at improving waste water infrastructure in rural villages. The new measure A8, ‘Waste Water Collection and Treatment needs for Villages and Settlements without access to Public Waste Water Services’ will operate under the 2022–2025 programme and will be funded to the tune of €50 million.
A framework document and circular inviting submissions was circulated to local authorities at the end of April. Where unsewered villages and settlements also do have a piped drinking water supply, there may be possible opportunities for group water schemes located adjacent to these communities to participate in project proposals that are being advanced by their local authority.
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.