The contribution of Wavin Pipes to rural water supply has been enormous.

Wavin's contribution to Irish life

Wavin is credited with inventing and pioneering the use of plastic pipe for water distribution. Wavin, together with the Department of Environment and Macra na Tuaithe brought running water to rural homes across Ireland through the Group Water Schemes initiative. Group water schemes became a household expression throughout Ireland as did the name the brand name Wavin.

The supply of piped water had an enormous contribution to the social and economic development of rural communities across Ireland and brought about fundamental changes to the quality of life and living standards for those living in rural Ireland. The absence of a reliable and safe water supply had raised questions about the economic future for rural Ireland, without the necessary infrastructure, the potential for growth in rural Ireland was seriously hindered.

Life before Wavin

Up until the 1950’s piped water supply in Ireland was virtually unheard of outside of Irelands major towns and cities. According to the census of 1946, just 8.6 per cent of rural homes had water on tap. This generally came in the form of a private well or from rainwater collection, for the rest drawing water from a pump was their only access to water.

It can be hard to imagine how difficult life was in Ireland before the arrival of running water and we can only appreciate the position when something interferes with our supply. The reality of non-piped water provisions was drawing water supplies from wells, rivers and lakes and this came with serious health and sanitation issues.

A world before piped running water translates into a home without a toilet, bath or sink let alone washing machine or dish washer, clothes were washed by hand and it was difficult to maintain hygiene around the house. Water was of such value that it was rarely thrown out until after being put to several uses – it may originally have been used to wash clothes, then used to mop floors etc.

Access to clean water was scarce, on the Aran Islands families collected rainwater for drinking and used old stockings and tights to filter it. In Clonmel drinking water was taken from the river, which was also used as an outfall for sewage from the local hospital.

Raising the standards of Rural Living

Economic development and growth was not feasible in rural Ireland without a piped water supply. The benefits of a piped supply were felt both industrially through development as well as rurally through improvements made to farming practices and efficiencies. For example, Wavin piping made it possible to graze stock in fields which traditionally had to be laid for meadows because they had no water. Durable and easy to handle plastic piping enabled farmers to bring water to the most inaccessible places, thus improving farm practices and outputs from farms.

Group Water Scheme

The first Group Water Scheme was developed in the late 1950’s and is credited to Father Joe Collins who arrived in Kilbride as parish priest in 1957. Collins originally trained as an engineer and sought to organize a water supply to the local houses from the springs. He was committed to providing running water, toilers and bathrooms to the homes in the townland Kilbride, Co. Wicklow. The first Scheme was made up of 3 miles of Wavin 60mm hard PVC pipe.

A national water strategy aimed at increasing the provision of piped water in rural areas was subsequently rolled out and grants were provided to incentivise group water schemes. Grants covered two thirds of the cost of the work and each scheme was asked to contribute the balance, this was made up of both monetary contributions and voluntary labour. The more labour that was done by the Group the less financial commitment needed.

Once the scheme was organised and approved a detailed drawing of the works was produced and sent to Wavin for pricing. Wavin worked collaboratively with each scheme sending their Technical Representative down to train the group in best practice techniques to ensure a smooth and efficient project completion.

Group Water Schemes were an outstanding success and changed the lives for many people living in rural Ireland. Figures from the 2006 census note that 173,000 homes received their water via the rural schemes. Not only did rural Ireland benefit from Group Water Schemes but the philosophy and practices were employed by Governments in India and Africa for Group Water Scheme development.