Private Deputies' Business. - Survey of Water Resources — Motion.

Wednesday, 17 October 1945

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 98 No. 3

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Mr. O'Donnell: Information on William Francis O'Donnell  Zoom on William Francis O'Donnell  I move:—

That Dáil Eireann is of opinion that immediate steps should be taken by the Government to obtain a survey of the water resources of Éire with a view to the provision of an adequate supply of pure water to every rural dwelling in the country.

I have been in this House for two and a half years and this was one of the first motions tabled by my Party. By a strange coincidence, this motion was down for 3 o'clock on the day on which the dissolution took place. The dissolution took place about 1.30 p.m., so we missed the tide and got on the rocks, but better late than never.

Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Local Government and Public Health (Dr. Ward): Information on Dr. Francis Constantine Ward  Zoom on Dr. Francis Constantine Ward  The water will be useful now.

[346]Mr. O'Donnell: Information on William Francis O'Donnell  Zoom on William Francis O'Donnell  This is one of my dreams which I hope will become a reality. Having been reared in the heart of Tipperary, but having lived for a long time in this city, I did not know the drudgery which lack of water meant, and if there was one thing more than another which drove me into public life it was this question of a water supply. The need for water is pretty well known. I suppose air is the first essential, but men on hunger strike have lived on water for months, so I suppose water is the second essential. You cannot live without air and water certainly comes next.

Every Deputy here will approach this matter from a national point of view, but each of them will naturally relate it to the area he knows best, his native county. We in Tipperary have more water than any county in Ireland. We have more counties around us than any other county, and if you make this water survey a regional matter, it will defeat itself, because county boundaries will enter into it and make it unworkable. I therefore suggest a national survey, although regional schemes are certainly very good. It seems that in Tipperary, as in many parts of Ireland, we are pretty much like the ancient mariner whom Coleridge described. We have water everywhere and never a drop to drink.

Water is supplied principally from the mountains but a good deal comes from the plains. We have a good number of mountains in Tipperary — the Galtees, the Knockmealdowns, Slievenamon, Slieve Bloom and Keeper Hill. We have as much water in Tipperary as would supply almost the seven neighbouring counties as well as our own and those neighbouring counties have perhaps streams equally as good. In the wilds of the forest, the first thing an animal bearing young or becoming sick does is to go where water is available, and you will find the same thing on farms. We are blessed with both plains and mountains in Tipperary and we have the best water in Ireland in Tiobraid Árainn, from which all-Ireland hurling winners came thrice.

Between Cahir and Cashel we have [347] 100 well springs or streams. The Leas-Cheann Comhairle knows well the new road in that area between Cahir and Rockwell. The people travel a distance of five miles to get drinking water at these wells. The water from the streams flows into the River Suir, into what I may describe as a stink pot. I hope that my national survey will help to remove that. You have a population of 5,000 people in Thurles. The first thing that strikes your eye there is that, into the River Suir, which rises in the Slieve Bloom mountains, you have the sewerage of the beet factory flowing. The river wends its way southwards towards the village of Golden which is also very badly off for water. The same is true of Cahir, with a population of 1,500 people, as well as of Ardfinnan. In Clonmel, with a population of 5,000, you have the sewerage of the fever hospital going into the Suir. In view of that, is it not terrible to think that the people in Thurles and Clonmel have to depend on the Suir for their drinking water? I suggest that the rivers of Ireland were never meant to be sewers for towns. The way that I would put it is, that the water from our mountain streams and rivers was meant, first of all, to be conserved for the use of human beings, and, secondly, for animals, but not to be used as sewers for towns. The cities of Sheffield and Birmingham have a population of approximately 2,000,000 each. I believe there is a small river, the Don, near Sheffield. I suppose that 200 or 300 years ago both cities were mere hamlets, with perhaps 6,000 or 8,000 people in each. Sheffield, through the development of the cutlery industry, and Birmingham, with its iron industries, have now populations of 2,000,000 each. In the two cities you have as many people as we have in the whole of Ireland. Both have the finest high-pressure water supplies in the world, developed from the Welsh mountains.

In my native area we have water everywhere, and yet there is no pure drinking water available between Cahir and Clogheen, except that provided privately through the benevolence of a [348] local magnate. It is not unusual to see ten or 15 cars at day-break waiting to get a supply from this private source for domestic use. They come there at an early hour in the morning to fill their barrels. About five miles from Clogheen, which is mentioned in the Life of St. Declan, there is a supply of pure water for about 200 families. It appears that when the son of the pagan chief there accepted the Faith, the saint struck a rock and since then there has been a supply of water available, so that he did more than baptise the son of the chief. The people, however, have to travel five miles to avail of that supply. Not far away, we have two streams running down the mountainside, but by the time the water has passed through the first farm it has become polluted, due to the fact that cattle have access to it. By the time it reaches the valley it is anything but pure. On one of these streams you have 25 families living. About 300 yards from the central town in the valley you have a school which is attended by about 80 pupils. A sample of that water was taken about 31 years ago and sent to the late Sir Charles Cameron for analysis. He certified that it was not fit for human consumption. We have a natural stream supplying the town of Cahir. The water there is not fit for human consumption. Because of that I venture to suggest that during the last 25 years many of the residents have contracted disease and died. I suggest it is time that we took control of our rivers and wells. The artificial stream that was put down by three landlords near Thomastown Castle, where Father Mathew was born, serves a very good purpose. When the land was bought from them by the Land Commission, these landlords left £60 a year to have the stream looked after. I admit that these artificial streams serve a very good purpose, but a supply of piped water would be very much better and safer. The present Gárda barracks, as well as the old R.I.C. barracks between Cahir and Clogheen, get their supply of water from St. Kieran's well which is situated about four miles away. The water is brought there by a contractor. That contract was made at the time that the R.I.C. [349] was established by Sir Robert Peel. Some better method than that should be devised for supplying the people with a pure supply of water.

Since this matter was first mooted in this House, about two years ago, it was taken up in England by Lord Beaverbrook, the powerful newspaper magnate, and the Labour Party there. That was long before the Labour Party had any notion that they would become the Government in that country. Thanks, however, to the driving power which Lord Beaverbrook was able to exercise through his widespread chain of newspapers, a survey was made as a result of which it is now estimated that an expenditure of £25,500,000 would put water into every rural home in England, Wales and Scotland. The estimate for England and Wales was £18,000,000 and £7,500,000 for Scotland. In area, Scotland would more closely resemble this country than either of the other two. I used to be fairly good at mathematics when I was at school, and if we take it that a round sum of £8,000,000 would supply every rural home in Ireland with a pure water supply, the annual cost of the scheme, at 5 per cent. on that capital expenditude, would be £400,000 a year. Assuming that we have 400,000 farm houses in Ireland, the annual charge on each would be £1 a year. That is what I estimate it would cost to provide them with a pure water supply. These are the sort of figures that appeal to me.

I remember during a little campaign about last March 12 months I was going around South Tipperary, and in about 12 miles of country I counted 12 water barrels on their way to and from the river. They were all bringing filth out of the River Suir for animals to drink. The drudgery of it is fearful. Take an agricultural labourer's wage — £104 a year. It is nothing to write home to mother about, but if he spends a quarter of a day drawing water, that amounts to £26 a year. If you take the wear and tear of the horse and cart and the harness and barrel — again quoting figures, like scripture, to suit my purpose — I think £26 a year would be a very small amount to calculate. That is £52 a year or £1 a week. That is a very long way in advance of the £1 [350] a year that I suggested to the Minister. There is quite a big margin. However, as the showman says: “You pays your money and you takes your choice”, but that there is great room for a remarkable saving there is beyond yea or nay and the need for it is undoubted. May I quote from a debate we had here in May, 1945? This is a kind of foundling, a pet child of mine. The Minister, Dr. Ryan, hauled me over the coals and said I claimed great credit for it. Speaking at that time in May, 1945 — I was not in the House at the time; I was on my way to Tipperary on the night mail as there was a little election on there in which I was interested — the Minister, Dr. Ryan, said:—

“There is another matter about which we should be clear. There is no use in any Deputy saying that he advocated water, electricity, and so on, being brought into the farmers' houses, and claiming credit when that is being accomplished.”

Not guilty, my lord. The Minister continues:—

“It is not a question of who first advocated such schemes. I am sure we all agree that the farmers should have the same amenities as the townsmen, and it does not matter who first asked for these amenities. We are aiming at the provision of water for the farms, but the first step towards that is rural electrification. When electricity is brought to every farmer's house, then the water will follow, because where a farmer has not got water at present he will then have the electric power to bring the water to his farm, and after that, naturally, will follow proper sanitation. At the same time, I do not see why we should not try to do something about putting in proper stoves, cooking facilities, and so on, in farmers' houses. We should aim — and I am sure that every Deputy of any Party in this House will agree —at having the country house just as well equipped as the city house, so that the farmer will have proper lighting, heating, hot and cold water, proper sanitation and so on”——

[351] Now here is the snag:—

“— so that if a girl has to make a choice between marrying a farmer and settling down in the country, or settling down in the city, she shall at least have the same amenities in the country as in the town or city. Naturally, it will take a long time to achieve that, but I know we should be able to reach the point.”

Our women folk are the finest in the world. They are second to none. I am sure you will all agree with me that they are glorious. I may be a bit of a romanticist; and all I have to do is to look in the mirror to know that no girl would bother about me, but if I took a fancy to a girl I would marry her, if she would have me, before a princess on her throne. But some of the modern girls have become gold diggers. Last week an interview with a young lady who had got a windfall of about £25,000 was published. She was from the Minister's country. She had all the attributes that I mentioned to you. She was modest — a lovely girl. She remained three weeks in her position in England; the Sweep did not turn her head. Then she came home to help her family. Was not that grand? She would do everything she could for them. When asked by the local scribe: “What are your ideas on matrimony”? she said: “Well, I will not marry a farmer anyway.” God save Ireland; the Jews can look after themselves. I will make no comment on that. I quite agree with the Minister that we should try to make the amenities equal. It is a pity we did not take her down Jones's Road to see our lads from Tipperary playing Kilkenny in the hurling final, or perhaps if she saw Roscommon playing Cavan she might change her mind. I will leave it at that.

I forgot to mention that the sewage of those cities, Sheffield and Birmingham, is treated with septic tanks. I see Deputy Loughman here smiling. He should appreciate what I say. He is not one of the city fathers in Clonmel, but he is a very eminent citizen. I think I am right in saying that our corporation in Clonmel, as well as our [352] county council, are very advanced. I hope I am not boastful. They have applied for a scheme costing £30,000 when this emergency is over, with a view to putting the river right, because building is extending to the southern part of the town and the river is glutted with filth and dirt. At the lower end of the town on a hot summer's day it is not very nice. They have the idea of the septic tanks. Our county council are behind this water scheme with us, and they have sent around what is popularly known as a snowball resolution. It was sent to the various county councils, and I think a good number of them replied in favour of it. When I first proposed this at the county council in Clonmel I brought a hornet's nest around my ears. I had a fan mail that a film star would envy. I suppose I had hundreds of letters in regard to that particular thing, simple as it seemed. The purport of the letters was: “We are doing very well as we are and everything is lovely in the garden.” I made inquiries and I found that each of them had a very decent supply of water and that some of them had pumps in the yard. I do not think that money can be obtained to sink pumps at the moment. If proper catchments or reservoirs were made at the source — these streams of the Suir must have about half a dozen tributaries which rise in the mountains — they would serve a great many people. Piped water supplies could be laid from them and artificial streams might be made here and there to serve other families. Without a piped water supply, you will not have water fit for human consumption. Pumps are another means by which water could be supplied but I do not think that the Land Commission give grants for the erection of pumps at present. Pump sinking is more than an adventure. There are parts of my county in which a fair number of persons have pumps at 20 feet but I have known others who had to sink to 300 feet. I have no geological or hydraulic knowledge but I think that if you were to go 60 feet or 70 feet you would get water in most cases. If one had to sink to 300 feet, it would ruin him. Where a gravitation supply could not be arranged, pumps [353] might be provided and water obtained at a depth representing the average of the figures which I have quoted.

The repair of pumps is left to the county council, which has 80 or 100 pumps to attend to. The pump service should be nationalised in the same way as the telegraph service. Brinsley MacNamara in the Valley of the Squinting Windows is somewhat sarcastic on the subject of pumps. When the son of a farmer made an improvident marriage, his relatives got themselves elected as guardians and obtained for him the task of sinking a pump which gave anything but water. He never looked back after that, according to the book. I do not subscribe to that but I do know that pumps in my area are relics of hydraulic inefficiency. However, revolutions were hatched in the country over those pumps, so they served a purpose. About five miles from where I live, a man asked me to go down a bit of a road with him. I went down about 30 yards and was then within 100 yards of the Suir at Mooncoin. He pumped and pumped and the water came out yellow. Then, it turned blue and green and when he had about 5 barrels pumped it became crystal. He was working for 25 minutes by my watch and he brought that water home for domestic use. The Parliamentary Secretary has had a great deal to say about tuberculosis. He has done his job well but I think that impure water is one of the causes of tuberculosis. On one occasion the Parliamentary Secretary pulled me up over a statement which I made. When arguing with a professional man, the odds are against one. We have a great medical officer of health in Clonmel, Dr. Naughton. His report contains many references to petitions for the erection of pumps. He says “a number of petitions for the erection of public pumps were received and investigated during the year. Suitable recommendations for the erection of pumps were made where it was considered that such were necessary, having regard to the existing water supply, population of areas, etc. In addition, recommendations were made regarding repairs to a number of existing [354] public pumps. These repairs were carried out in all cases.” I have my doubts about that. There are quite a number of them idle and they are, as I have said, relics of hydraulic inefficiency. They were erected by the guardians and the science of hydraulics must have advanced a great deal since then.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Eamonn O'Neill  Zoom on Eamonn O'Neill  What has the Deputy been quoting from?

Mr. O'Donnell: Information on William Francis O'Donnell  Zoom on William Francis O'Donnell  From the report of Dr. Naughton, medical officer for Tipperary South Riding. The towns and villages here are given most attention. A Deputy who is medical officer of health referred to sporadic outbreaks of diphtheria in his county. Whether those would be due to bad water, it is not for me to say. In my area, a young bull which would have made £400, a first prizewinner in a three-county show, made only 40 guineas because he would not pass the tuberculosis test. He had been drinking from a foetid stream. There was not a drop of pure water on the farm of the man who owned him and he had to go two miles for water. I am not a philanthropist but I have a gravitation water supply which about 20 families avail themselves of. When the pipes became corroded some time ago, they did not say that they would subscribe to the cost of repair. However, the custom was an old one and one must do as those who went before him did. I know people have to travel a mile and cross five ditches with their buckets in order to obtain a supply of water. I have seen them working up to 10 o'clock at night at a threshing and then driving their cattle a mile off to give them a drink. With all the earnestness at my command I commend this motion to the House.

Mr. Cogan: Information on Patrick Cogan  Zoom on Patrick Cogan  I second the motion. It is universally admitted that a pure water supply is essential in every part of the country. During the past few years we have been extending water supplies over large areas. There are very few villages which have not an efficient supply, but places that have been overlooked have to be catered for in the post-war period. They are earmarked [355] for development in schemes that have been prepared by local authorities. In many rural areas, however, practically nothing has been done in this regard by the State. Speaking for farmers I can say that they provide a water supply by sinking wells. Very little has been done for them in that way by the State. Attempts have been made by local authorities to provide water in housing schemes for cottage dwellers in rural areas. Most of these attempts consist of the erection of public pumps, and anybody who has the misfortune to be a member of an elected body knows what a source of worry they are. There is never a meeting of a board of health without a list of “sick” pumps that require attention. It seems to be a problem that cannot be solved to get these public pumps to function satisfactorily. I do not think that public pumps erected to serve a number of houses have given satisfaction, because these pumps are never attended to. They are everybody's property and are probably ill-used. That may be the main reason why they prove defective.

In urban areas we have endeavoured to provide facilities for bringing water into the houses of everybody who is prepared to avail of it, and in a position to pay for it. I do not think anybody would advocate that the State should install water in all houses in rural areas, but it should, at least, go so far as to bring the water into the yards or adjacent to dwelling houses. It is not easy to estimate what a scheme of the kind would cost. Every rural dweller would not need a supply, as some places are more seriously affected by a shortage of water than others. I represent a constituency in which we have apparently adequate supplies of water. There is not a county in Ireland where more streams and rivers rush down from the mountains than in County Wicklow. Nevertheless, there are hundreds of rural dwellers, even in County Wicklow, who have to travel long distances to obtain water for domestic use and for their live stock.

I was intrigued by the reference made by the proposer of the motion to [356] the method adopted by Saint Patrick to provide water. Apparently the saint secured water by dividing a rock. I do not think the Parliamentary Secretary is long enough in public life to have developed sufficient sanctity to be able to repeat that miracle. He is, therefore, up against a big problem, but one which will have to be faced. Great Britain is facing up to it in a businesslike way. When considering the question of the cost, we have to take into account the cost of the existing methods. There is the time and labour involved in carting water in barrels. There is the loss of live stock through lack of water, because there is always a shortage during a drought. The most serious point of all, of course, is the injury to the health of the people. It is not only essential that the State should take steps to provide water in rural areas, but should also take steps to ensure that it is pure, and does not convey any disease. I think it is necessary that the mineral content of water should be examined. In certain districts we know that, due to minerals in water, there are some ailments and diseases prevalent amongst the human population. Goitre, for example, and others, are frequently attributed to such causes. I do not know whether disease is caused by the mineral content or by a deficiency of minerals but it is due to the kind of water available in some districts. I saw it suggested in the House of Lords, in connection with the development of water supplies in Great Britain, that the utilisation of what is known as spring water or subterranean water should not be developed as intensely as was the case in the past. The case made was that that supply would be exhausted. I never thought that could happen. I was under the impression that spring water percolates from the surface in some way. I may have been wrong. The problem is a big one but the Parliamentary Secretary should tackle it. We are developing electrification and seeking to bring to rural dwellers the amenities provided for people in the towns, such as light and power. We are linking that up under a national scheme. We know that it would cost more to link up rural [357] dwellers and to provide them with electric current than in towns, but we should also undertake the important work of arterial drainage, which must be linked up closely with water supplies. In a big drainage scheme we must provide water for an entire area. It would be impossible to do that, or to carry out arterial drainage without considering the position of the catchment areas.

In this connection also, I may mention that very important work is being carried out in my constituency, and particularly in the adjoining constituency of Kildare, in regard to the Liffey Reservoir. There we have a provision made for power development on an immense scale and also for the provision of water to the City of Dublin, but linked up with that we find that the local authorities in Kildare are developing a local water supply for a portion of the rural dwellers in North Kildare. That is a very desirable thing. It is very important and desirable that in connection with national works such as that, they should be linked up with local schemes with a view to getting the best results from them. It is very desirable that there should be some sort of co-ordination of that kind in connection with the various national schemes. I know that at the present time the Department of Local Government and Public Health are making a big effort to induce the local authorities to abandon what is known as local charges for rates for such schemes as water supply, and so on, and to make them county-at-large charges in every county. I also know that a number of counties are fighting against that on the ground that it would impose upon the rural dwellers the cost of providing amenities for the cities and towns, but I think there would be no objection whatever to making those local charges county-at-large charges, if all the rural dwellers were to derive this advantage in regard to a water supply.

Now, as I say, there are many counties in which we have a considerable water supply of various kinds for rural dwellers — there are wells, and so on, on a great many farms, or very [358] convenient to them. Deputy O'Donnell referred to the fact that some counties did not support the motion proposed by Tipperary for a national water supply for rural areas. Well, I happen to know why some counties did not support it. I know that in regard to one particular county it had been raining for six weeks before the motion came on, and the natural anxiety there was to prevent an extra water supply. Those things, of course, will happen, but I think that nobody will disagree with the contention that it is a great hardship on rural dwellers, and particularly the women in rural districts, to have to carry water for long distances. References have been made to areas where one has to carry water a very long distance — sometimes two or three miles — along the roads. I should think that such cases would be rare, but in most counties there is a number of farmers' houses where the water has to be carried 200 or 300 yards from the nearest well. That, undoubtedly, is a hardship, and something should be done to mitigate it. I am quite sure that the people who would benefit from this would be quite willing to contribute their share of the cost, but they will expect the State to contribute its share also. I might also say that in connection with various other schemes, such as arterial drainage, electrical power, water supply, and so on, we would expect that the capital expenditure required — whether it be £6,000,000 or £7,000,000 — would be raised at a nominal rate of interest.

Mr. Heskin: Information on Denis Heskin  Zoom on Denis Heskin  In supporting this motion, I agree that everything possible should be done to provide an adequate water supply for our community, and I am sure that the Parliamentary Secretary, as well as every Deputy in the House, will agree that an adequate water supply is very necessary, not alone from the point of view of household needs, but from the point of view of the health of our people and for agricultural production. From the viewpoint of our people's health, I think that every effort should be made by the Department of Local [359] Government and Public Health to see that an adequate water supply is provided. In the area where I lived up to a few months ago we enjoyed a public water supply, and it was only when I left that area that I realised the difficulties people had to encounter in order to provide a sufficient supply of water for their households and for production, generally, on the land. In the particular area where I am at the moment — Deerpark, Lismore — I know of cases where people have to travel over two miles to get a supply of water, and the poor in that locality, such as farm labourers, have to depend on the farmers, generally, to cart the water from one to two miles for ordinary household uses. In cases of that kind I would suggest to the Parliamentary Secretary that a general survey should be made by each county. I am sure that the cost of such a survey would not be too much, in view of the fact that you have an engineering staff attached to each board of health, and these officials could make the survey.

I think it would be the duty of the Minister, in cases where supplies of water are not available, to make every effort to provide a supply of water. We, who are members of local bodies, have deputations coming before us from time to time, seeking for a water supply, and we make every effort to make recommendations, but, at the present moment, nothing can be done, particularly in view of the scarcity of adequate material for the conveyance of water, and so on. We have promised, in many cases, to give such schemes prior consideration after the emergency, but the question of the cost of financing such schemes may arise. I would suggest that in such cases, where local authorities are prepared to undertake schemes of that kind, the Minister should make a substantial contribution, and also that where loans are made to local authorities they will be at a very low rate of interest so that the cost to the ratepayers of a water supply will not be too high. I know of areas where they would be prepared to pay any amount of money in order to get an adequate water supply, but if loans [360] are to be made, then, as I have said, they should be at a very low rate of interest.

At the present moment you have public health authorities trying to cope with tuberculosis, and in that connection an adequate supply of pure water is very essential. We know that very many diseases are due to bad water supplies, and we also know that applications have been made to local authorities to sink even small wells. In country districts where cattle and horses have access to such places, it is very injurious to the public health generally. I think that the Local Government Department should take steps to provide proper protection for such water supplies to ensure that they are kept pure for human consumption.

It would also help towards the provision of adequate water supplies for farmers if the Minister for Agriculture were to agree that the erection of pumps could be included in farm improvements schemes. I discussed this matter with the Minister some time ago and he told me that the difficulty at the time was to ascertain costings in regard to the sinking of pumps. The provision of adequate water supplies is most essential to all forms of agricultural production — the production of milk and dairy produce and the rearing of live stock generally. It would be a great asset to the agricultural community if adequate supplies of water for animal and human consumption were provided throughout the length and breadth of the country. I suggest, therefore, that a survey should be made of the country for this purpose and that an honest attempt would be made to cope with the situation. If such attempts were made it would meet with the demand put forward in this motion and would eventually lead to the provision of adequate water supplies throughout the whole of rural Ireland.

Mr. Allen: Information on Denis Allen  Zoom on Denis Allen  This motion is one, I am sure, with which every Deputy in the House can agree in principle. There is no doubt that adequate supplies of pure water are essential for the health of the people, apart from anything else. It would appear from what we [361] heard from Deputy O'Donnell that Tipperary of all counties in Ireland is an unfortunate exception. It would strike one, listening to the Deputy, that the local authorities in that county have not done their duty in the past or Tipperary would not be in the position in which we are told it is at the moment. I think it was announced 12 or 18 months ago that it would be part of the Government's post-war policy of reconstruction to provide rural dwellers, not alone with electricity, but also with adequate water supplies. The Government announced that quite a long time ago. I speak subject to correction but I think it was announced here in this House. That is a good sound scheme and I thoroughly agree with it. Anyone living in a rural area knows what a good water supply means to farmers and rural dwellers generally. The people living in towns and large villages, who were fortunate enough to have water supplies provided for them at the public expense in the past, scarcely appreciate what a great boon they enjoy. I know some villages and towns where such supplies were provided and where the people struck against the payments of a nominal rent of 10/- or 15/- for the water supplied to them. They refused to pay 10/- or 15/- a year.

I also know that local authorities had it in their power in the past — they have it in their power at the moment also — to provide rural areas with water supplies whether that involved the erection of a pump, the sinking of an enclosed well or the provision of a pipe supply. Many local authorities throughout the country have spent large sums of money in that way. Deputy Heskin suggested that the State should contribute towards the cost of these schemes. I can tell him that the State did contribute as much as 40 per cent. towards the provision of supplies, whether for rural or urban areas. There were, however, many local authorities who did not take advantage of the help that was offered to them. I am associated with a local authority and I am sure that we have as many as 500 pumps in our area. We have also a large number of pipe schemes. We did not wait until this [362] hour of the day to think of these schemes; we made a great effort for the last 25 years. We have been progressively providing water supplies in rural areas wherever there was need for them and have put through a large number of pipe water schemes too. They are working quite satisfactorily under a system of county-at-large charges. As I say, we did not wait until this hour of the day. We have had them in operation for the last 15 or 25 years. Every public water supply in the area is a county-at-large charge; there is no such thing as district charges. We may not be any more progressive than local authorities in other counties but such improvements have been consistently carried out for at least the last 15 years and the cost is levied as a county-at-large charge, just in the same way as housing.

Deputy O'Donnell complains that things are very bad in Tipperary. I suppose they are or he would not so frequently complain of them, but the local authority there have it in their own hands to improve matters. There is no use in blaming the Minister or the Government for something the local authority neglected to carry out. I hope the day is not far distant when the State will assist local authorities by providing portion of the funds necessary to have pipe supplies all over the country, but it is a big job — a much bigger job even than the provision of an electricity supply. It is something to aim at anyhow, something at which we hope the Government will aim, but it is going to cost the ratepayers a huge amount of money. Many local authorities could have taken more energetic steps in the past when grants were available.

I think the Farm Improvements Scheme does make provision for the labour content in the sinking of a pump. Actually I know a case where a farmer got a grant under the scheme for the sinking of a pump, but the labour content in such work is generally small. The big cost of the sinking of a pump is represented by the capital charge of providing the pump and the linings. I admit that the grant is not adequate where it is necessary to have deep boring and [363] where one may encounter rock. The ideal solution would be pipe lines to supply big areas in all parts of the country, but even in the pre-emergency days such a scheme would cost a huge amount of money. It would run into millions to carry out such a scheme all over the country. A scheme of that kind is not going to come in a hurry but, in the interval, local authorities could do far more than they have been doing in providing water supplies.

I am sure that the Parliamentary Secretary will agree in principle with this motion and that he will tell us that it will be his policy in future to encourage local authorities to provide the people with adequate water supplies. That has always been the policy of the Department; they did not need any encouragement in that direction. The Minister has been impressing on local authorities over many years the importance of providing such supplies. The county health authorities, the county medical officers of health in their reports, have, every one of them, year in, year out, drawn attention to the necessity for proper water supplies because, as they pointed out, most of the fever epidemics that take place all over the country can be traced to impure water. Farmers and people living in rural areas have just as much need of proper water supplies as people living in towns. I am sure more water is available in this country, whether in rivers, lakes or springs scattered here and there, than in any country in the world. This country is more favoured in that respect than any other country in Europe. It is a matter of utilising the resources at our disposal. Local authorities in certain counties are providing for the needs of the majority of rural dwellers, for whom they have built cottages.

Mr. Roddy: Information on Martin Roddy  Zoom on Martin Roddy  In a general way I agree with Deputy O'Donnell's motion, but I do not quite see the necessity for the national survey that he has suggested because I imagine the public health officials could supply all the information required about the water requirements of every area in their particular counties. I imagine, also, [364] that the county engineers have already made surveys of the water resources of the areas in their counties most in need of water. Everybody, of course, will agree that a pure water supply is indispensable to good health and good living in any community. We all realise perfectly that there are areas in this country that are very badly handicapped by not having a supply of pure water, especially during the summer. I know that in Sligo — and the same is true of many other counties — farmers, both large and small, have to draw water many miles during the whole of the summer and the greater part of the autumn. Admittedly, the public health authorities have done a great deal in the provision of water supplies. They have certainly provided a good deal of money for that purpose, but much of that money has been squandered because very often the procedure they followed was to engage a water diviner who would proceed to the district where there was an inadequate supply and would there try to locate a spring. The water diviner would decide on a certain point and the county engineer would satisfy himself in his own way that water might be obtained in that particular place and would start boring operations. I know of many cases where, notwithstanding that borings were carried out to a great depth, the supply of water obtained was almost negligible. I read recently in some scientific magazine that during the war some more modern and more scientific method has been discovered of locating water. If that is so, I hope that method will be resorted to in this country so as to obviate a great deal of the extravagance and waste that take place in trying to locate spring wells and water supplies in various counties.

I would also suggest to the Minister that some regulation should be made about the protection of wells, especially spring wells. It is quite a usual thing to see the walls surrounding a well broken down and the refuse from the adjoining roadway or adjoining field flowing freely into the well. In some cases there may be no protecting walls around the well; the surface of the well [365] may be level with the road and the refuse from the road and from the adjoining field flows freely into it. That certainly cannot be healthy and there is danger that it will cause disease.

I notice from the reports of many county medical officers of health that stress is laid on the fact that there is an increase in the incidence of diphtheria in certain counties. I do not know whether that is general or not but I know that it is true of many counties. I do not know whether the absence of a good water supply in some areas has anything to do with it or not but I would imagine that a pure water supply would help in counteracting diphtheria and other diseases.

The provision of a water supply in every county should be a matter for the local authority assisted, in a suitable financial way, by the Department of Local Government. Conditions vary in counties and the local people know their own counties and know where the need for a water supply is greatest. I think the present arrangements are working out in a reasonably satisfactory way and I believe they would work out more satisfactorily if more encouragement were given by the Department of Local Government. I would not be prepared to agree with Deputy O'Donnell that the provision of water should be taken over and controlled by the Government. The Government, probably, is controlling far too much already and I would not like to hand over the water, as well as the land, of this country to the Government. I think it would be much more sensible to encourage local authorities to devote more time, at all events, to the provision of a water supply in the areas over which they have control. It is absolutely essential that that should be done because, judging from one's own experience, there are certain types of disease that are more prevalent in areas where there is not an adequate supply of suitable water than in areas where there is an adequate supply.

Mr. O'Donnell: Information on William Francis O'Donnell  Zoom on William Francis O'Donnell  There would be an awkward position if you had two county surveyors in bordering counties who did not get on well together.

[366]Mr. Roddy: Information on Martin Roddy  Zoom on Martin Roddy  I hope that is not general. That may happen in Tipperary but I thought the Deputy said that they are a very happy people in Tipperary who live happily together. In any event, I still think that the problem of the supply of pure drinking water, for man and beast, is a matter mainly for the local authorities, with the active assistance and co-operation of the Department of Local Government. I think much more could be done in that matter if the Department of Local Government were prepared to give much more financial assistance than they have given in the past.

I would suggest, therefore, to the Minister that new rules and regulations should be made for the purpose of protecting spring wells in various parts of the country because I imagine that some of these wells are in a very unhealthy condition at the present time which makes them a source of disease.

Mr. Keyes: Information on Michael J. Keyes  Zoom on Michael J. Keyes  I think there will be general agreement with the object of the motion, as indicated by Deputy O'Donnell. While I agree with Deputy Allen that progress has been made and that there has been a very praiseworthy effort on the part of local authorities to improve a deplorable condition, much leeway still remains to be made up. Tipperary is not the only county that would appear to be suffering from lack of pure water and I would hope that, with the characteristic generosity of the Tipperary people, when their position has improved, they will allow some of their surplus water to flow into County Limerick. I am sure Deputy O'Donnell will see to that, so that County Limerick will not be left without a pure water supply. While the scheme contemplated would be a colossal one, I think the general survey suggested would be the most economic approach to it, if it should be carried out.

A good deal has been done by the local authorities but their methods have been spasmodic. If they had the advantage of a general survey they could conduct their water schemes for various villages and small towns on more economic lines. I have seen cases where wells were tapped which, after a short period, failed to yield the amount [367] of water expected and other wells had to be tapped to supplement the supply. Quite recently, there have been recurring outbreaks of typhoid in Patrick's Well, County Limerick, which should be as healthy as any spot in Ireland. For several years past there has been a great outcry that there is no water supply. The local authority did all they possibly could. They tapped a particular place only to find that the water was not of a suitable character and, in the meantime, the villagers are waiting for a supply, in constant dread of a recurrence of an epidemic. The county manager and the local county council are at their wits' end and they do not know whether or not they will have to go to a river some miles away to provide water for the village in the absence of a suitable well in the vicinity. I know another place in the same county adjacent to Tipperary where seven or eight families have to travel, not a couple of hundred yards, but considerably over half a mile and cross the main railway line from Dublin to Cork to get water, which they can get only in a well through the grace and good will of a farmer who allows them to trespass on his land. That ought to be remedied by the sinking of a pump but, for what reason I do not know, the county council have not up to this sunk a pump for these people or given them any sort of water supply. I could give other instances in that area in the Golden Vale around Knocklong where people are very badly handicapped for want of a water supply.

We are all agreed that a pure water supply is essential for the health and convenience of the rural population. If it is to be provided and the efforts which are being made are to be speeded up, I think a survey of the type suggested in the motion would be an incentive to the local authorities and a spur from the Local Government Department to urge them to greater efforts. Whatever co-operation could be given by the Local Government Department should be given to speed up the realisation of this ideal. As Deputy Allen pointed out, there is abundant water available in the country and, if a proper survey were [368] made, it would be a great help to local authorities in dealing with the matter. Up to now there have been only spasmodic efforts made. If a village makes a clamant demand for a water supply it gets it, while another village may be left without it. I think it is a national question that ought to be dealt with. I think the motion is not untimely and that a start should be made.

It will be a long time before you have the necessary materials to carry out a scheme of the magnitude contemplated, but I think a survey ought to be undertaken by the engineers of the Local Government Department in conjunction with the engineers of the local authorities. Between them, a scheme could be hammered out on a coordinated basis which would ensure, when the materials would be available, that an adequate water supply will be provided. The finance will have to be provided from somewhere. It would be costly, but it would be spread over very large areas. We will have to pay something to put electricity into rural dwellings, which will be a great boon, and whatever the cost of this would be, the people are of opinion that we ought to have a pure water supply. I think we ought to take the initial steps in any case by having a survey made and see what is the most economic way of approaching it; whether we ought to tap rivers or mountain lakes, and what is the biggest area that can be served by a particular reservoir. That would be more economic in the long run than having each public authority trying to deal with their own little problems as they arise from time to time, which would eventually cost more and give less satisfaction to the people as a whole.

Seosamh O Cinnéide: Information on Michael Joseph Kennedy  Zoom on Michael Joseph Kennedy  Sé mo thuairim gur ceart, nuair atá eastáit dá roinnt idir daoine, na tithe ar na feirmeacha do chur le chéile, i dtreo is gur féidir uisce do thabhairt do gach tigh i slí economiceach.

When lands and estates are divided, if the Land Commission would group together the houses of the people who are allotted the land it would go a long way to deal with this question of water supply and electricity. Under the system of farming we have here, the [369] farm houses are all a distance apart. Where houses exist already on homesteads, I suggest that the sinking of wells and pumps should be included in the farm improvement grants. That would be one way of dealing with the question. These grants might be supplemented by a small grant from the county council. I have known roads to be made by a combination of farmers under a farm improvement grant. The same thing could be done so far as the water supply is concerned. These are the two suggestions I make on this motion: that the houses should be grouped together so far as possible when estates are divided and that the farm improvement grants should be made available for schemes for the provision of fresh water.

Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Local Government and Public Health (Dr. Ward): Information on Dr. Francis Constantine Ward  Zoom on Dr. Francis Constantine Ward  Few of the speeches that have been made on this motion have, in fact, been very closely related to it. The motion is:

“That Dáil Eireann is of opinion that immediate steps should be taken by the Government to obtain a survey of the water resources of Éire with a view to the provision of an adequate supply of pure water to every rural dwelling in the country.”

Many Deputies talked about the desirability of having a survey of our water resources, but the motion does not end there. If we are to have a survey, that survey is to be “with a view to the provision of an adequate supply of pure water to every rural dwelling in the country.” That ideal, in Deputy O'Donnell's own words, has been the dream of his life. Speaking quite honestly to the House and to the Deputy who is particularly interested in this matter, I believe it must remain a dream. I do not think it is possible to provide an adequate supply of pure water to every rural dwelling in the country. I do not think it is physically possible; I do not think that it is financially possible; and I am pretty sure that an adequate water supply to every dwelling in rural Ireland is not immediately available.

Deputy Cogan, I think, realised that the full terms of this motion did [370] not represent practical politics, because he reminded the House that a water supply was not required for every rural dwelling. Of course it is not. For a very big proportion of rural dwellings it is not required, for the simple reason that they have got an adequate water supply already, not a piped water supply, but an adequate supply of wholesome water. I think there will be no disagreement as to the purity and wholesomeness of spring water; and, indeed, the purity of the water supply that is available in many dwellings in rural Ireland is of a much higher standard than the purity of the water supply that is available in urban areas and in larger centres of population. Unfortunately, all rural dwellings were not built with particular advertence to the need for a pure and adequate water supply. If there is not water within the reach of the house, Deputy O'Donnell in his dream hopes that we may be able at some time to supply it by a piped system. Now, water will not flow up a hill, and, if the house is up the side of a mountain, how are we going to get the water up to it? As Deputy Kennedy has pointed out, our houses in rural Ireland have been scattered over the countryside, some of them up near the top of the hill, some of them half-way up and some of them at the back of it, and however desirable it may be, and however attractive the dream may be — and I should like to see it come true, if it were possible — I think we may as well face the reality of the situation and admit that a piped water supply to every rural dwelling in this country is not a feasible proposition.

Mr. O'Donnell: Information on William Francis O'Donnell  Zoom on William Francis O'Donnell  Or a pumped supply?

Dr. Ward: Information on Dr. Francis Constantine Ward  Zoom on Dr. Francis Constantine Ward  In our consideration of this question, we should also advert to the progress that has been made in the past 20 years. Excluding the smaller schemes, the pumps and small supplies that cost under £1,000, 475 piped water supplies have been provided since 1922. It is true that the position was very primitive prior to 1922 and I need not take up the time of the House in dwelling on the historical reasons for that position. As to [371] the expenditure on the provision of water and sewerage in the past 23 years, between 1922 and 1932, £1,800,000 was expended, and between 1932 and 1945 £3,970,140 was expended, making a total of £5,770,140 expended on water supplies since our institutions of government were set up in this country. It is a very big sum and it represents a serious effort to deal with this matter, the importance of which is not questioned by anybody and the particular importance of which, from the point of view of public health, has a special appeal for me. The figures I have quoted excluded small schemes under £1,000. If we included them, the expenditure on water schemes would amount to approximately £6,000,000.

I will be told, I presume, that these schemes have operated, in the main, in the bigger centres of population. That is so. The problem is more urgent in our urban centres, in our towns and villages, than it is in rural Ireland. Consequently, the policy is as far as possible to provide proper water and sewerage systems in our towns and villages and, when we have done that, if we live to see the day — and I hope we shall — to extend as far as it is feasible into the rural parts.

There are many considerations on which I need not dwell in any detail that govern the provision of a water supply, whether it be in rural Ireland or in our towns. The geological formation, the incidence of rivers and springs and the locations of dwellings are matters which will operate, taken together, to preclude the possibility of reaching the ideal Deputy O'Donnell has in mind. It would be reasonable to assume that, if and when cheap electrical power becomes available in Ireland, it will be within our reach to supply water to some rural dwellers, if the source of an adequate supply is available — but that is a long distance ahead.

Much could be done by giving more attention to our springs and sources of supply, and to the proper protection of our wells. The Deputies who talked about the contamination of wells — I think Deputy Martin Roddy [372] was one of them — were getting close to realities. Our wells in rural Ireland, though the source of supply may be good, though the spring itself may be pure, are undoubtedly subject to contamination through the carelessness of the owners. But again, as Deputy Allen and other Deputies have pointed out, the local authority is already armed with adequate power to deal with that situation. In fact, if we have not made more headway in the provision of satisfactory water supplies in rural Ireland, I think a share of the criticism ought to be levelled at the local authorities.

Having said all that, I want to tell the House — and especially to convey to Deputy O'Donnell, who is so interested in this matter — that the Department has been fully alive to the need for a survey of resources. As Deputies will appreciate, such a survey cannot be carried out in a year or two, but must extend over a considerable period, when gaugings have to be taken in very dry seasons, when the water is at its lowest, and in very wet seasons when it is at its highest. As far back as 30th May, 1944, the following letter was issued to each county engineer and each county health engineer, and a similar letter was issued to each town surveyor. The letter is dated 30th May, 1944, and headed “Water Supplies”, and is as follows:

“A number of schemes for the water supply to towns, villages and districts in your area have been submitted to the Minister in the form of preliminary reports and estimates. In many cases, alternative supply sources are mentioned. There are also a certain number of schemes in a very advanced stage of preparation which have been held up through lack of constructional material. It is essential that reliable information regarding the quantity of water available at each source should be obtained before any of these proposals can be approved. The lack of information regarding the yield of springs, streams and rivers in very dry periods has been deplored frequently in the past in connection with water supply proposals and [373] many cases examined have had to be delayed until reliable low-flow figures had been obtained. This year has been very dry so far and, if existing conditions continue, all sources of supply will be tested very severely. The chance of obtaining minimum yields should not be missed. Will you please make the necessary arrangements as soon as possible to establish gauges on each source of supply? These gauges should be read frequently and regularly, until there is no doubt whatever that wet weather conditions prevail again. Such gauging stations should be established on all sources proposed as possible supply sources or possibly to be used in the future as supply sources for towns, etc., not included so far in any list of proposals submitted to the Minister. It would also be desirable to obtain the gaugings for existing sources of supply, whenever possible. It is realised that many of you are extremely busy on turf production, but it is felt that the importance of this matter merits the time you will have to give to it.”

I think the House will agree that, so far as the question of gauging supplies and carrying out a survey is concerned, we are not losing any time in dealing with it, as far as it is possible to deal with it. As I have said, we all would be very happy to see a piped water supply to every rural dwelling in this country, or failing a piped water supply, to ensure that each rural dwelling has a good spring water supply within a very short distance of it — which would probably be the next best solution. We would be glad to see that, but I do not think we can achieve a piped water supply. However, as far as it is possible, by encouraging the local authorities, we shall endeavour to secure at any rate that the wells are better looked after, and, where there are spring wells, that they are properly protected, and that every effort will be made to ensure that this essential commodity for the maintenance of health will be available to the people.

Mr. O'Donnell: Information on William Francis O'Donnell  Zoom on William Francis O'Donnell  The Parliamentary Secretary has now openly stated that he favours this survey, and that [374] already a little has been done in this direction. A few thoughts occurred to me during the course of the debate. I am grateful to the Parliamentary Secretary. Is he prepared to accept the motion?

Dr. Ward: Information on Dr. Francis Constantine Ward  Zoom on Dr. Francis Constantine Ward  I could not. I think the Deputy should realise that already we are carrying out a survey. I could not accept the implications of the motion — that immediate steps should be taken by the Government to obtain a survey of the water resources of Eire with a view to the provision of an adequate supply of pure water to every rural dwelling in the country. I could not accept the implications of that, because it is not possible to achieve it.

Mr. O'Donnell: Information on William Francis O'Donnell  Zoom on William Francis O'Donnell  Where required? There are many houses — the survey will reveal that.

Dr. Ward: Information on Dr. Francis Constantine Ward  Zoom on Dr. Francis Constantine Ward  Where it is required — we might not be able to do it there, either. I think the Deputy has been fully met, and he ought to withdraw the motion.

Mr. O'Donnell: Information on William Francis O'Donnell  Zoom on William Francis O'Donnell  There are a few points with which I should like to deal; the Parliamentary Secretary and those who spoke to the motion reminded me of them. You have three schemes before you. You have the arterial drainage scheme, which is a very laudable thing. You have the rural electrification scheme, which is equally needed. Then there is the need for a pure water supply. I think these schemes are as indissolubly bound as the Siamese Twins. If you take a vote among the farmers at the moment — the farmers who have not a supply of water — I believe they would vote for water as against electricity. I studied your Rural Electrification Act — that comes under your control.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Frank Fahy  Zoom on Frank Fahy  Not under mine, Deputy.

Mr. O'Donnell: Information on William Francis O'Donnell  Zoom on William Francis O'Donnell  No, but under the Parliamentary Secretary's. I think it is on page 60 of the Rural Electrification Act that you could pump your water from the nearest well, which might be four or five miles away. I [375] believe that if it came to a vote, the farmers would vote for the dip candle and paraffin oil as against any electricity scheme. Give the farmers water; they do not want electricity. The three schemes should go together hand-in-hand. Go on with your Rural Electrification Act. I remember 20 years ago, when the Shannon scheme was put forward. It came in for strictures and was referred to as a white elephant. I thought it was a white elephant at the time, but I now take off my hat to the man who initiated the Shannon scheme, because it saved this country; we would be bankrupt only for it.

At the same time, I believe that if we continue to harness the rivers of Ireland in order to generate electricity, and keep the farmers without a supply of pure water, posterity will have something to say to it. It was Boyle Roche who asked: “What has posterity done for us?” I will not be here to hear what posterity will have to say to us. You will get your water supply from the catchment areas, from the wells and the lowlands, at the foot of the mountains. If you harness the rivers for the purpose of electrification schemes you will be doing a sorry day's work, because you will leave the farmers without an adequate water supply. That is my version.

These schemes are bound together and if you go on with one without testing the others it will be like cutting off a leg to cure a corn. It will be a false move to harness the rivers. I was not here when the Minister made a statement, but he did not seem to me to put it clearly — I read it in the Debates afterwards. He said that when we use the rivers for the purpose of generating electricity they are not eating up the water. My suggestion is that if you use the rivers in that way you will not have an adequate supply of pure water for the farmers. [376] I suggest that the three schemes should be examined.

The Parliamentary Secretary has been very sympathetic and I am grateful to him. You are making a survey in some places. The two other schemes are passed. You are not doing a good day's work, because the three schemes should go hand in hand. Here is a Deputy with two years' experience suggesting that the Government has done wrong by passing two Acts, the Rural Electrification Act and the Arterial Drainage Act. The water you are taking away under the arterial drainage scheme will interfere with the springs and reservoirs that should be used in order to supply the farmers with pure water. It is a case of young men, a young Government, in a hurry. Have a survey made and let the three schemes go together.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Frank Fahy  Zoom on Frank Fahy  Is the Deputy pressing the motion?

Mr. Davin: Information on William Davin  Zoom on William Davin  The Parliamentary Secretary might accept it, with a mental reservation.

Dr. Ward: Information on Dr. Francis Constantine Ward  Zoom on Dr. Francis Constantine Ward  I am not accepting it.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Frank Fahy  Zoom on Frank Fahy  What does the Deputy desire?

Mr. O'Donnell: Information on William Francis O'Donnell  Zoom on William Francis O'Donnell  If the Minister will accept it, it will be a great thing. The need is there. It is not because it is my dream; it is a reality with me.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Frank Fahy  Zoom on Frank Fahy  Does the Deputy desire me to put the question?

Mr. O'Donnell: Information on William Francis O'Donnell  Zoom on William Francis O'Donnell  I am too keen on it to withdraw it.

Motion put and declared negatived.

Mr. O'Donnell: Information on William Francis O'Donnell  Zoom on William Francis O'Donnell  Better luck next time.

The Dáil adjourned at 7 p.m. until 3 p.m. on Thursday, 18th October, 1945.


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