By the mid 1990s, the GWS sector was in crisis. Schemes lacked several essential criteria for sustaining a successful water supply: appropriate treatment (capable of dealing with variations in raw water quality), relevant and consistent training/mentoring of operatives, effective business organisation and forward planning. Above all they lacked the capacity to meet the financial burden of delivering a consistent quality water supply, much less the capital demands of upgrade works. Notwithstanding all of this, the case taken by a resident of Ballycroy GWS to the European Court of Justice would confirm that group water schemes must comply with the same onerous quality standards demanded of a municipal water supply and, furthermore, that the State has a responsibility to ensure that this standard is
achieved by all water providers that come under the Drinking Water Regulations (i.e. those supplying more than 50 people or smaller supplies with a social/commercial connection).
Any solution to the problems afflicting the GWS sector would have to be found through
a new framework that would equip the GWS sector to deliver on its statutory responsibilities. In 1998 that framework emerged in the form of a Rural Water Programme that has transformed the GWS sector.
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