Since the company’s foundation in 1952, TOBIN have a proud history of providing engineering services for the delivery of water supplies to rural Ireland. Until the 1950s piped water supplies only existed in Ireland’s towns and cities and public water supply in rural areas consisted of village pumps. In 1955 a committee comprising Department of Local Government and the Local Sanitary Authorities was established to examine rural water and sewerage infrastructure, resulting in a new government strategy for rural water in 1959. A nationwide polio outbreak in 1957 brought the issue of rural water into sharp focus.
The company’s founder, Patrick J. Tobin, was instrumental in the provision of rural water supply during these early days of expansion. In February 1952 he presented a paper to the Institution of Civil Engineers of Ireland titled Contemporary Irish Water Supply Practice. This formed the basis for the design of many of the regional water supply schemes that were rolled out during the 1950s and 1960s across Ireland.
Some years later, he presented a paper titled Economic Aspects of Modern Water Supply Design to an IPA Seminar at Ballymacscanlon House, Dundalk on 7th November 1959.
The rollout of piped water supplies to rural areas in some ways mirrored rural electrification but was somewhat slower in its development. By 1971, only 58% of rural households had a piped water supply, with many still relying on individual wells.
Throughout the 1970s many Group Water Schemes were established, and this resulted in a step change in the percentage of the population on a piped supply. Further improvements in water quality in rural supplies came about following the establishment of the Rural Water Programme in 2002.
The improvements in sanitation in rural Ireland from the 1960s to recent times have resulted in societal benefits in terms of public health, food production and economic health of rural areas, and TOBIN are proud to have contributed to these successes through this period.
From 2016 to 2019, TOBIN were Employer’s Representative to Mayo County Council, in partnership with the 13 Group Water schemes, for the upgrading of 13 water treatment plants across County Mayo, as part of the Mayo DBO Bundle 1A project. More recently TOBIN are Employer’s Representative for the upgrading of three water treatment plants in east Mayo which are supplied by shallow springs and which are on the Remedial Action List.
TOBIN’s history of working in the rural water sector was a key factor in our appointment in March 2021 by the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage (DHLGH) to carry out a comprehensive national review of the rural water sector, including both rural water supply and rural waste water (largely single house wastewater treatment systems).
In April 2018, on foot of recommendations of a Joint Oireachtas Committee on the Future Funding of Domestic Water Services, the Minister established a Working Group to conduct a review of the governance, supervision, funding and wider investment needs of the Rural Water Sector, the system of monitoring water quality in the sector and how deficiencies are identified and responded to. Our project outputs will inform the Working Group in addressing its Terms of Reference and will provide an overall assessment of the Rural Water Sector.
The project consists of two assignments. Assignment One comprises a Literature Review, including all published documentation relevant to the project, including international best practice in the delivery of rural water services. Assignment Two is a regional in-depth assessment of the operation of the rural water sector in Ireland and involves consultation with key stakeholders who have a role in the sector including Local Authorities, the HSE, National Federation of Group Water Schemes, and the EPA.