Northern Ireland Water (NIW) is the sole provider for water and sewerage in Northern Ireland. It is a company entirely owned by the Northern Ireland government. NIW is regulated by the Northern Ireland Environmental Agency (NIEA).
The environmental regulator is the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) which is an Executive Agency within the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA). This means it has very little independence.
Crucially in Northern Ireland, there is currently no functioning government, as a result of power-sharing agreements breaking down. This means that important decisions about how to protect and restore the environment in Northern Ireland are just not being made. Consequently, there is currently no Environmental Performance Rating procedure in place for Northern Ireland Water.
Northern Ireland has a total of 2,398 operational sewage overflows, however, data for the operation of this infrastructure is sparse. Up until November 2023 there was no transparency about the location of these sewage overflows in Northern Ireland, meaning that vital information regarding the safety of waters for people and ecosystems was unavailable. Whilst Northern Ireland Water have provided a map of the locations of overflows they still provide no data on how often these overflows are discharging sewage, which they say is due to a lack of investment and budget for the provision of infrastructure to monitor sewage discharges.
All information regarding sewage assets (including condition and performance) is obtained through manual inspection, rather than automated systems as with other UK-based water companies. This means we have little to no information regarding the state of Northern Ireland’s water and the potential impact that sewage discharges are having on them. Not even Northern Ireland Water knows how much sewage they are dumping!