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Extending water mains network needs ‘special funding’

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A ‘SPECIAL funding mechanism’ would be required to pay for the thousands of homes not on mains water to be connected, Jersey Water has said after a report found that some private water supplies contained ‘unacceptably high’ levels of nitrate pollution.

Helier Smith, chief executive of Jersey Water

Jersey Water said it could not afford to connect the estimated 3,000 to 3,500 properties not on the mains network from within existing resources and conversations would need to be had with the government about possible options if Islandwide connections were to be rolled out.

The comments from Jersey Water chief executive Helier Smith came in response to a report published last week following the discovery of PFOS in borehole drinking water.

While the report found that levels of PFOS were within global norms and ‘not of concern’, nitrate levels in more than half the Island’s private borehole supplies were above recommended drinking water levels. As a result, the report made a number of recommendations.

The States’ group director for regulation, Andy Scate, said it was time to look at a roll out of the mains network to as many properties as possible, and added that Jersey Water could fund it through their own company structure.

Mr Smith has now responded to the report’s findings and recommendations.

He said: ‘We estimate that there are approximately 3,000 to 3,500 properties currently not connected to mains water. By virtue of their location, many of these properties are quite a distance from the nearest water main creating logistical and financial challenges in bringing a mains water connection to them.

‘We note the recommendations of the technical group that the extension of mains water should be considered as an option to improve water quality for those on private supplies. If the recommendation is taken forward by the political group then we will need to begin discussions with the Government of Jersey as to how this might be achieved and funded and whether there is the option to combine this initiative with sewer extensions.

‘While we are in the process of costing the wholesale extension of mains water, we expect the cost to be at a scale that could not be absorbed within our normal capital expenditure budget. A special, yet to be determined, funding mechanism would therefore be required.’

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He added that it was too early to say what that mechanism could look like and that ideas and options would have to be discussed with the government.

And Mr Smith said that adding thousands more properties to the network, which is regularly extended by a ‘modest amount’ as part of an ongoing programme by Jersey Water, would have implications for future water resources which would need to be factored into the Water Resources and Drought Management Plan that Jersey Water is currently working on.

He also supported the recommendation for hydro-geological studies to be carried out on two areas – St Ouen’s Bay and Pont Marquet – that had been polluted by PFOS in an effort to better understand if there were any options for returning water quality in the area to a good standard as a way of helping to address water scarcity issues.

‘I also think it is important to note that the drinking water supply meets or exceeds existing and proposed water quality standards for PFAS and other parameters,’ Mr Smith added. ‘Jersey Water customers can rest assured as to the quality of the water supplied by the company which is consistently of a very high standard, despite the challenges presented by water quality in some of the catchments.’

Lucy Stephenson

By Lucy Stephenson
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