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Home : Water Services : New River Barrow Water Supply for Kildare : New Barrow Water Supply for Kildare - Frequently Asked Questions


The New Barrow Water Supply for Kildare         Mid - July 3013


The Barrow Supply          What is this supply?

Kildare County Council is pleased to announce that the new Barrow water supply will come into production with effect from mid-July 2013.

This project has been at planning and construction stage for many years, the Water Abstraction Order having been formally made back in 2005.  The water treatment plant is located at Srowland just north of Athy.  There are two supply pipes from the plant serving Ardscull and Old Kilcullen Reservoirs.  The final out-turn costs of the abstraction plant as well as the two associated pipeline contracts are likely to be in the region of €45m.  This is a major economic boost for the south of the county particularly in terms of economic activity and associated job creation.

What is the Capacity of the Supply?

The supply will allow for future growth in demand and when fully operational it is expected that production at the plant will be 31 million litres per day (i.e. 31 mega litres), 7 of which are earmarked for Athy to be distributed through the new Ardscull reservoir, while the remainder will be pumped to the Old Kilcullen Reservoir in order to provide a new water supply to the central parts of County Kildare.

Why develop the new Supply?

The development of the Barrow supply is essential to provide security of drinking water supply for County Kildare.

The new Barrow supply is very timely as it is very important to reduce dependency on other Councils.  County Kildare is currently dependant on Dublin City Council Water Treatment Plant at Ballymore Eustace and Fingal Co Co Water Treatment Plant at Leixlip for the majority of the water distributed in Co Kildare.  

There is a shortage of water in the Greater Dublin Area with resultant constraints which affect water supply management in Co Kildare. Currently, demand and supply is very finely balanced resulting in the risk of shortages during prolonged dry spells or in the case of production difficulties. Imminent upgrades in relation to both the Ballymore Eustace and Leixlip Water Treatment plants will boost regional production and this will relieve some of the pressure in the short-term.  However, in light of increased demand, mainly arising from population growth, these pressures are likely to continue until a new major regional source comes on stream in 2021/22. The future needs of industry will also have to be taken into account.

Accordingly, the additional 31 mega litres to the regional supply is really to be welcomed.  The production process at the Barrow can supply up to 38 mega litres in the case of emergencies. The Barrow supply will also have the desired effect of reducing Kildare’s dependence on Dublin City Council (Ballymore Eustace) and Fingal County Council (Leixlip) for its water supply. In future, it is envisaged that demand in Kildare will be met from the following sources:-


Source – Projected and allowing for future growth


River Liffey (Leixlip and Ballymore Eustace)


River Barrow (Athy)


Ground Water (Rathangan and Monasterevin wellfields)


River Slaney (Carlow Co. Council)                                                                





What will change with my supply?

The water quality will comply with EU Drinking Water standards and be perfectly safe to drink.  The consumer will notice that the new supply is “harder” water, particularly when compared to the Ballymore Eustace supply which is very “soft”. This is because the River Barrow flows through areas rich in limestone while the Ballymore Eustace supply comes directly from mountainous surface water areas.  Hard water is good quality water.

Water Conditioning and Blending

The Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government has recently sanctioned approval at a cost of approximately €3.8m, for a “conditioning” system at the Barrow plant which will reduce hardness levels at source. Construction of this new system will commence very shortly and is due for completion in October/November, 2014.  In the intervening period, this presents a challenge for the Council in relation to public perception of the new supply. Accordingly, in the intervening 70 week period, it is proposed to blend the Barrow supply with the softer Ballymore Eustace water at the Old Kilcullen reservoir. This will have the effect of reducing the level of hardness to moderate levels.

The supply to Athy and environs from Ardscull Reservoir will not be blended.  However when the conditioning plant comes into service in Autumn 2014 the hardness levels will then be reduced. The Barrow supply is less hard than the existing Athy Town Council supply.

Information for Consumers

Kildare County Council is providing information to consumers in relation to the proposed changes. The main areas to be supplied with the blended water include Newbridge, Kildare Town, Kilcullen, Ballitore, Moone, Kilkea, Suncroft, Nurney, Kilmeague, Allen, Allenwood, Prosperous, Robertstown, Derrinturn as well as parts of south-central and north-central Kildare. More detailed information is included in the Council’s website - www.kildarecountycouncil.ie. A series of radio and newspaper advertisements have also been placed in addition to a leaflet drop. The Council has established a dedicated telephone line (045-980555) 9.30 a.m. to 4.30 p.m. Monday to Friday in order to deal with any queries. Kildare County Council’s Emergency Number 1890 50 03 33 can be contacted outside office hours.

Is the water Safe to Drink?

Kildare County Council is also stressing that the new Barrow supply complies fully with EU Drinking Water Standards and is perfectly safe and wholesome.

The Council is advising that there are no measures or interventions required at individual household level. It is, however, important for consumers to be aware of the slightly different characteristics. The increased hardness is likely result in deposits of limescale when the water is heated. A light film may form in heated beverages, it is harmless. These are natural characteristics. Many parts of Kildare (Athy, Monasterevin and Rathangan as well as parts of Kildare Town) already have hard water.  Most individual wells in Co Kildare have hard water similar to most parts of Ireland. 

Drinking water in County Kildare is of good quality but if you are concerned about whether you have hard water the following are answers to the questions most often asked.

There is no health risk associated with hardness.

Hard Water is perfectly safe to drink

Water Hardness

Hardness is a natural characteristic of water.  It is perfectly safe for everyone to drink. Hardness in water is a measure of the concentration of Calcium Carbonate in the water. It can appear in the form of scaling and deposits in kettles. Sometimes a “film” on the surface of heated beverages (tea in particular) will be noticed. This is a thin film of limescale and is harmless.

Why does our water get hard?

Rainwater is naturally soft. It only becomes hard if it percolates through soil and rocks in limestone areas and dissolves some of the minerals. The kind of water you have depends on the geology and the source of your water supply – and whether it is river water or ground water.  Most public and private wells in Co. Kildare have hard water.  The Monasterevin and Rathangan public water supplies are sourced from wellfields and these supplies are hard.  The Athy Town Council supplies are also sourced from groundwater and these supplies are hard. The Leixlip Regional Water Supply is abstracted from the River Liffey at Leixlip.  The River Liffey flows through the limestone plains of Co Kildare and the groundwater contribution from the aquifers results in varying levels of hardness at Leixlip.    

Is Hard Water Safe to Drink?

Hard Water is perfectly safe for everyone to drink. Drinking hard water will increase intake of essential minerals – calcium and magnesium. However, when hard water is heated calcium deposits or ‘lime scale’ form. While posing no risk to health, this can affect household appliances such as kettles, dishwashers, washing machines and some heating systems.

Hardness levels and limits

There is no specific upper limit for hardness under the Irish Drinking Water Regulations. The World Health Organisation Guidelines do not give a health based standard for the hardness of drinking water.

What causes hardness in water?

There are two types of water hardness, temporary hardness that can be removed by heating the water, and permanent hardness that cannot be removed by heating the water.

Total hardness is the sum of the concentrations of all calcium and magnesium ions in the water. It is the sum of the temporary hardness and the permanent hardness present.  Rain water being naturally soft does not contain any minerals, but as it seeps through the ground it can pick up minerals, such as calcium and magnesium compounds, from the soil and rocks it passes through. If rain water passes through soft rocks like limestone, it picks up these minerals. If it passes through hard rocks, such as granite or through peaty soils, it does not pick up minerals and so remains soft.

Hardness is generally expressed as mg/l CaCO3 units however other units may sometimes be used. The following is one of several arbitrary classifications of water hardness.

  • Soft  Up to 50 mg/l CaCO3
  • Moderately Soft  51-100 mg/l CaCO3
  • Slightly Hard  101-150 mg/l CaCO3
  • Moderately Hard  151-250 mg/l CaCO3
  • Hard  251-350 mg/l CaCO3
  • Excessively Hard  Over 351 mg/l CaCO3

 What are the current hardness levels in CountyKildare’s water supply?


   Supply Source

 ( Mg / L )







 River Liffey  - Leixlip




 River Liffey -  Ballymore Eustace




KCC Wellfields  ( Rathangan and    Monasterevan )


         At Source not blended with other


         Blended with Ballymore Eustace Supply




  Athy Wells




 Ground Water Supplies includes Private Wells

300 +



 River Slaney - Castledermot




 River Barrow  New Supply


 At Source not blended with soft water


New Supply Areas  ( blended with soft water )




Hardness levels in Barrow Water Supply

The water in Barrow Water Supply originates from both surface water and groundwater. The hardness level varies in the raw (before the water is extracted from the river and treated to drinking water standards) water between 220 and 385 CaCO3. The raw water in the River Barrow is considered to be a hard water. The Barrow Water Supply is fully treated and complies with the Drinking Water Regulations.

What is Water conditioning?

Water conditioning is a system whereby the temporary hardness of the Barrow supply will be reduced.  A conditioning system will be operational at the Barrow supply water treatment works in November 2014.

Why Water Blending?

The Barrow water will be mixed with Ballymore Eustace Water at the Old Kilcullen Reservoir.  The Dublin City Council Waterworks at Ballymore Eustace produces a soft water and the mixing with the Barrow water will reduce the overall hardness level.  The Barrow water will be mixed in a ratio of 1:3 with Ballymore Eustace water until the conditioning plant is operational on at the Barrow water treatment plant near Athy.

Blending will not take place at the Ardscull Reservoir. Water from the Ardscull Reservoir will supply Athy Town Council area and environs including Ballyroe. 

How can I find out if I will receive water from the Barrow Water Supply?

You can get detailed information from Kildare County Council Website. www.kildarecountycouncil.ie

Is there a standard for the hardness of drinking water ?

There is no maximum value for total hardness.  There is no health based standard for the hardness of drinking water.

What does it mean if I have hard water?

Hard water can cause scaling in hot water systems, kettles, electric irons, shower heads and domestic appliances. Hard water produces less lather from soap, washing up liquid and washing powders.

What can I do to reduce effects of hardness?


Kettles can be de-scaled by half filling with half water / half vinegar, leaving overnight, rinsing, refill and boil water, then discard water and kettle is ready for use.

Washing Machines

A wide range of products are commercially available to prevent the deposition of lime scale during the heating of water in washing machines.


Where dishwashers have built-in water softeners, householders should ensure they are set according to manufacturer’s instructions.

Shower Head

If limescale has built up – soak the shower head in half vinegar / half water solution for three hours or overnight to remove the limescale.

Should I use a water softener ?

Kildare County Council is advising that there are no measures or interventions required at individual household level.

The hard water is perfectly safe to drink and meets all the required drinking water standards. However, some people may choose to ‘soften’ their supply. This is a matter of personal choice. There are no grants or funding available from central Government or from Kildare County Council to assist with the installation of softening units, or the purchase of new appliances.

However, if you do install a water softener it is very important that you make sure that you have a supply of unsoftened water for drinking and cooking.  Many water softeners work by replacing the hardness with sodium (salt) which may be a health concern for people who are on a low sodium diet.  The cold water supply to the kitchen sink should be excluded from the softening process.

If you do decide to have a water softener it is advised that you buy it from a reputable supplier and that you maintain it in accordance with the supplier's instructions.  The effectiveness of the units cannot be guaranteed, nor can Kildare County Council recommend any particular unit.

Further Information

Kildare County Council Website www.kildarecoco.ie

Dedicated Email barrowwatersupply@kildarecoco.ie

Dedicated Tel: 045 980555        9.30am to 4.30pm Monday to Friday.

Kildare County Council’s Emergency Number:  1890 50 03 33 outside office hours.