NI Water in fresh warning over economic impact of infrastructure underfunding

NI Water has warned that constraints on water infrastructure is impacting the construction of social housing.

NI Water has issued a fresh warning that a lack of funding in wastewater infrastructure is having an adverse impact on home-building in the north.

The latest annual report from the government-owned utility company has once again flagged up the funding constraints it says is holding back the construction sector and economic development.

NI Water said it needs £2 billion to fund its business planning over the next six years, with around half a billion needed to address strategic drainage problems in Belfast.

It comes just days after Auditor General Kieran Donnelly reported “chronic underfunding” for water and wastewater services in Northern Ireland over the past six years, falling below the levels determined by the Utility Regulator.

While the funding from the Department for Infrastructure (DfI) reached the required level in 2020/21, NI Water chair Len O’Hagan said the years of underinvestment had come at a cost.

In a statement accompanying the annual report, he said: “The failure of government to provide proper funding has led to a generational underinvestment in our wastewater infrastructure, which adds complexity and significant inefficiency to the delivery of longer term asset resilience, risks deterioration in levels of service for customers, and is leading to inadequate environmental protection through increased sewer flooding and pollution.”

DfI responded to last week’s scathing audit by stating that Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon would be pressing her executive colleagues "to secure sufficient funding".

Mr O’Hagan also said that major change is also needed to respond to climate change.

“Changes are required to government policy, funding and regulation to rethink infrastructure as a total interconnected system rather than isolated silos," he said.

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