Tánaiste admits ‘significant’ issue with water quality in Cork city

Micheál Martin calls on Uisce Éireann to give customers timeline for fixing problem causing discolouration

Tánaiste Micheál Martin has acknowledged that there is a significant problem with water supplies in parts of Cork city with locals getting discoloured water through their taps for weeks. Mr Martin called on Uisce Éireann, which advises customers not to drink discoloured water, to give people a timeline for resolving the issue.

“I have been engaging with Uisce Éireann on this and I think there is a significant issue here that has to be deal with – my understanding is that it’s not as simple as sorting it out in the short time frame but Irish Water needs to get it sorted and at least give people a timeline and sense it will be sorted,” he said.

Mr Martin was responding to calls for the Government to do something after videos appeared on social media of householders in Ballyvolane on Cork’s northside turning on their taps only for orange-tinged brown water to emerge.

Uisce Éireann said in a statement that it was working to address the issue with water supplies in Cork city. It said its water quality taskforce was implementing a plan which included increased sampling, targeted flushing programmes and watermains replacement.


The company said that regular sampling is already being carried out at customers’ taps and on the network, and operational sampling is carried out at the water treatment plant. The company said it had increased its sampling at customers’ taps with a view to protecting public health.

“This is to provide continued reassurance that the water is compliant once running clear, and to assist with investigations into discolouration issues. Customers reporting instances of discolouration help us to determine sampling locations in the network,” it said.

“Uisce Éireann has reached out to approximately 235 customers to date, with the aim of providing updates on ongoing works and gathering further information about customers’ experiences. This is in addition to routine customer reports received, where a callback is made, as per standard procedure.”

Uisce Éireann advised people not to drink discoloured water and in the event of discolouration, they recommend people run their taps for up to 20 minutes which should usually restore water to a clear colour. Once the water is running clear, it is safe to drink.

“If the issue remains unresolved, we encourage customers to contact us directly ... this allows issues to be logged and investigated in a timely manner. Each report is actioned and gives us a better understanding of any ongoing issues and allows us to prioritise the worst impacted areas.”

One Ballyvolane householder, John Ó Ríordáin, told The Journal that there have been consistent issues with water quality since 2022, when Irish Water connected his area to the city’s water supply. He said a discolouration was noticeable every two weeks.

“I was showering the two kids, and I had a filter in the shower for the water, and suddenly it started to run yellow – at first, I thought the filter had given up, but it hadn’t – it was just incapable of filtering out that amount of whatever that orange stuff [is].”

Uisce Eireann said that its targeted flushing programme works in the Douglas area on Cork’s southside is nearing completion and targeted flushing is due to commence next week in Iona Park, Murmont, Merrion Court and parts of Gardiner’s Hill on the city’s northside.

“Watermains flushing moves water through pipes at a high flow rate to help remove the build-up of debris and sediment. Clearing the pipes in this manner can result in sediment carrying through to customers’ taps resulting in increased instances of discoloured water in the short-term.

“This programme expands on previous flushing works and involves installing additional hydrants in some locations to allow the flushing area to be isolated from the larger network, improving the sediment removal and minimising disruption.

“A review of any additional watermains works required in these areas will be progressed once flushing is complete, having regard to prioritisation and available funding. We are also examining other initiatives which may improve water quality in the network. ”

Anyone experiencing discolouration or difficulties with their water supply can contact Uisce Eireann on its customer care helpline at 1800 278 278 which is open 24/7.

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times