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Water and renewables in focus during Republic of Ireland presidential visit

21 September 2023

Keith Howells learned about the history of Cork’s water supply and took part in discussions about sustainable and resilient infrastructure.

Water and renewables in focus during Republic of Ireland presidential visit
ICE President Keith Howells addressed a group of engineers and dignitaries alongside the Engineers Ireland president.

Last week I visited Cork in Ireland for a couple of days, accompanied by President’s Future Leader Benjamin Delmond.

We meet with Engineers Ireland, the ICE Europe Regional Committee and the ICE Republic of Ireland (RoI) local committee. We also joined some ICE committee meetings.

Engineers Ireland is a multi-disciplinary qualifying body with which the ICE has a mutual recognition agreement. We also have an agreement of cooperation which encourages knowledge sharing and joint events.

The president of Engineers Ireland, Ed Harty, and I both addressed a group of fellow engineers and dignitaries (including the Mayor of County Cork) at County Hall, followed by an informal dinner hosted by the ICE RoI Committee.

History of water supply in Cork

We visited the Old Cork Waterworks with an industrial heritage expert, Dr Colin Rynne, who described the evolution of the city’s water supply.

The principal works were built in 1768 using a hydraulically powered pump to lift water from the river Lee to a reservoir on the slopes behind the works.

Water was distributed to the town through wooden pipes – to those who could afford it.

The 1768 works were upgraded over the next 150 years. Firstly, to use Forneyron turbines, and later steam driven pumps powered by coal fired boilers.

The distribution pipes were upgraded to cast iron in the 1850s.

To see how times have changed, we walked up the road to the recently commissioned Lee Road Water Treatment Works.

These continue to take water from the river Lee but treat it to a very high standard by the processes of flocculation, settlement, filtration and disinfection – all controlled by state-of-the-art monitoring and control systems.

Very impressive new works, much thanks to Uisce Éireann and their delivery partners Murphy Group and JB Barry staff for taking us around and explaining the various processes.

Research into renewables

Keith Howells at University College Cork
ICE President Keith Howells visited University College Cork (UCC).

We visited University College Cork to hear about their research on sustainable futures, and in particular their work on renewable energy.

This covers offshore floating wind and, given the importance of agriculture to the local economy, digestion of agricultural wastes to create biomethane.

We held a panel discussion on sustainable and resilient infrastructure, chaired by Associate Professor Dr Marguerite Nyhan.

We were joined by Professor Jerry Murphy, chair of civil, structural and environmental engineering and director of the MaREI Centre for Energy, Climate and Marine, Yvonne Murphy, senior associate at Mott MacDonald, and the Lord Mayor of Cork City.

We ended the visit with a social event at the Mott MacDonald offices where we met with early career professionals (ECPs) and answered their questions.

A huge thank you to Keith Elliott, chair of ICE RoI, and Yvonne Murphy, ICE Council member and RoI country representative, for all their support during the visit.

Thank you as well to our hosts, Engineers Ireland Cork Regional Branch, ably led by chair Patrick Kennelly and supported by Alan Costello, from Mott MacDonald, and Michal Dymet, from Cork County Council, for demonstrating true Irish hospitality.

  • Keith Howells, president 2022/23 at Institution of Civil Engineers