Public Health Acts

The Public Health Act provides that the Waterworks Clauses Act provisions in relation to the following are incorporated and are applicable to all sanitary authorities.  These are in effect most local authorities except the former pre-2001 Act smaller town councils.

The Public Health Act incorporated provisions of the Waterworks Clauses Act in respect of certain key aspects of water supplies.  The Waterworks Clauses Act is  a model Act that was incorporated in private Acts which had mandated private corporations and companies in various towns in Britain and Ireland to perform these functions. The  Act included necessary powers to lay pipes, acquire land and make charges etc.

They include  powers in relation to

  • undertaking works
  • breaking up streets for laying pipes
  • requirements for communication pipes by the authority to the inhabitants.
  • requirements in respect to communication pipes laid by the inhabitants.
  • provision in respect to waste or misuse of water.
  • provision in relation to decontamination  of water.
  • Provision in relation to recovery of water rates.

The above provisions in respect to communication pipes only apply in districts where the sanitary authority laid pipes for the supply of water to the inhabitants.

The authority may acquire lands or water sources other than with the consent of the occupiers. The Land Clauses Act incorporates compulsory purchase provisions in relation to the acquisition and determination of compensation. They must make full compensation to owners or occupiers of lands affected by the construction or maintenance of works. Compensation shall be paid to owners and occupiers affected.

Powers for Works

For the purpose of their functions, the water authority may enter upon lands described in designated plans, approved in accordance with a process, break up soil, remove all earth, sink, wells, shafts and construct reservoirs, systems, drains, pipes etc. They may from time to time divert and impound water from streams and alter the course of streams not being navigable etc.

The authorities must do as little damage as possible. Where damage is done it must be reinstated. They must pay compensation for damage.

It is an offence to wilfully obstruct construction of any works. There is a penalty for illegally divert working waters or streams used by the authorities. If the works are not done, the person is subject to penalty. The owners and occupiers of lands through which streams flows are not to be prevented from using the waters in question as before.


The authority has powers in relation to laying pipes including powers to open and break up soil and pavements and streets and bridges as designated by the approval. It may
• open up sewers, drains,
• dig under such streets or bridges,
• lay pipes, replace pipes, conduits, service pipes
• do all works, and from time to time
• repair, alter or remove the same
• use material excavated under streets and bridges and
• do such acts that are necessary for supplying water.

Street Works

Before opening up or breaking up any street, bridge, sewer drain or tunnel, the authority must give notice in writing of the intention to do so from persons who control and maintain the streets, sewer, bridge, drain, tunnel etc.They must be given at least three days before works begin except in cases of emergencies. In such cases notice must be given as soon as possible, and detail of the emergency and need must be specified.

Streets may not be opened other than with consent of the entity having control and management of the bridge, sewer, drain, tunnel etc. Where, as is usually the case, the sanitary authority itself is the highway authority the provision will only apply as between internal departments of the local authority itself.

If the person having control or management fails to attend at the requisite time after being given notice or refuses to do so, the authority may do the requisite works without their superintendent.

Where streets, bridges, sewers, tunnels etc. are broken open for the purpose of works, the works must be undertaken with all convenience, speed, and must be reinstated and made good without delay.When a road or pavement is open or broken up the undertakers must ensure that it is fenced. They must provide lighting and warning for persons at night.

Where the works have been reinstated the authority must keep the pavement in good repair for three months. They must keep it in good repair for up to a continuous nine months if this soil continues to subside. If the authority fails to comply with the obligations, it is subject to penalty.

Where there has been a delay in reinstatement the relevant undertaker or persons in control of the relevant street, (now generally the authority itself) may undertake the works and recover the costs.

Taking Water Supply

A local authority is entitled to take a source of supply of water for the exercise of its functions.  It has compulsory powers of acquisition.  It must ascertain details of the source,  the place in which it is to be taken, the rate at which it is to be taken and particulars of certain ancillary matters.

The authority must give notice to persons who will be affected by the taking of water. It must  publish a notice in a newspaper of the proposal.

Persons affecting may object in writing.  If an objection is made and not withdrawn, the  authority applies to the Minister for the Environment and Local Government for a provisional order declaring that the proposal come into force. Once the order comes into force, it must give notice of everyone affected.

Where an enquiry is held in relation to an application for a provisional order, persons affected by the proposal  who suffer loss by the taking of the supply are entitled to apply for compensation.  The usual compulsory purchase and procedures apply.

Once the proposal comes into effect, the local authority is entitled to the supply and to do the requisite works required.  The authority has power to enter on any land to ascertain whether or not a good supply of water can be conveniently taken from the particular source.

It may do all such things necessary including surveying, planning, setting up gauges, making excavations, et cetera. It may provide, repair maintain any pipes and other works for the purpose of taking the water supply.

Before entry, the authority must obtain the consent of the occupier or owner and give notice at least 14 days in advance with the intention to enter.

Communication Pipes

The authority is obliged to lay communication pipes, to supply to water to domestic premises / dwelling house in streets in which pipes are being provided by them. This must be done on receipt of request from an owner of the house or its occupier with consent of the owner and a payment of a portion of the water rate made payable under the Act. The undertakers are obliged to keep the communication pipes in repair.

The above obligations have in practice been modified by the requirement of the Planning Permission and consent as provided in planning legislation.

Once the undertakers have made the communication pipe, the occupier is entitled to have a sufficient supply of water for his domestic premises from the undertaker. The undertakers may charge such reasonable annual rate for the pipes and extra works undertaken to make the communication.

The owner may purchase the internal communication pipes, in effectively redeeming the rent referable to them.

The owner or occupiers of dwelling houses with the scope of the authority, may lay service pipes in the dwelling houses to communicate with the authority’s pipes where they tender a portion of water rates. They require the consent of the owners of any intervening ground.

Any person who has laid down pipes may remove the pipes works after it has given notice to the authority of it intention to do so. They must pay compensation to the authority for loss and damage to the pipes. This provision is not longer operative as it would constitute a breach of other legilslaiton

Requiring Connection

Where the local authority has provided a watermain within not more than 100 feet, it may require the owner to make the connection.  This applies where the premises do not have a satisfactory supply of water.

The owners affected by notices may appeal to the District Court within a month.  It may confirm or cancel the notice.

The owner is obliged to complete the connection work.  Where the connection requires bringing pipis through lands not owned by the owner, the local authority may be required to do the work.

The local authority has power to provide or contribute to the cost of providing service pipes or water mains to a premises.  Equally it may provide the cost of drainage pipes from any premises to the source. The above powers apply to connection to public’s water system and sewage systems.

Where the local authority may not serve the notice because the sewage or water pipe system is over 100 feet away, the local authority may use its general powers to lay pipes from a source to bring the system to a point between 50 and a 100 feet from the premises.  In the case, the local authority may be obliged to pay compensation to the owners affected by the works.


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Draft Articles; The articles on this website are in draft form and are subject to further review for typographical errors and, in some cases, updating and correction. It is intended to include references to the sources of materials and acknowledgements in the final version. The content of articles with [EU] in the title and some of the articles in the section on Agriculture are a reproduction of or are based on European or Irish public sector information.

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