Assembly Committee quizzes Northern Ireland Water on handling of water crisis

Session: 2011/2012

Date: 06 January 2011

Reference: RD 02/10/11

The Northern Ireland Assembly Committee for Regional Development held a special meeting today to discuss Northern Ireland Water’s handling of the recent serious water supply problems.

Speaking after the meeting the Chairperson, Fred Cobain MLA said: “We called this special meeting to hear from Northern Ireland Water exactly what caused the recent serious problems with water supply and, perhaps more importantly, how it responded to these problems.

“Firstly the Committee would like to commend and thank the staff of Northern Ireland Water and all the other public sector bodies for the sterling work carried out on the ground in what were very difficult circumstances.

“The Committee considers it unacceptable that the current Chief Executive of Northern Ireland Water did not appear today to brief Members as one of his final duties.

“Members were glad to hear that Northern Ireland Water accepts that there was a crisis and that there are many lessons to be learned from the recent failures, particularly in relation to contingency planning. The Committee will expect to see updates from Northern Ireland Water on its preparedness for severe weather over the remaining winter months.

“It is our view that there was a complete breakdown in communication during the water crisis. This is particularly disappointing as money was specifically set aside in the company’s Strategic Business Plan to invest in improving information and communication systems. The Committee was also surprised to hear that crisis planning was not a formal item on agendas for the Board or senior management meetings before Christmas.

“We were disappointed that all the information we needed on Northern Ireland Water’s performance during the water crisis wasn’t provided to the satisfaction of Members today.

“Based on what we heard today, it is the Committee’s view that funds set aside for mains water rehabilitation may be inadequate to ensure Northern Ireland Water’s infrastructure is fit for purpose.

“The Committee has decided to invite the Minister for Regional Development to brief the Committee at its meeting on Wednesday 19 January 2011, and looks forward to seeing the terms of reference for both the Northern Ireland Water internal operational review and the independent review announced by the Minister.”

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