Northern Ireland

Borehole grants plan for Northern Ireland homes

Hundreds of homes with no mains water supply could qualify for a special grant to drill their own wells.

Isolated rural dwellings could claim up to £10,000 from this summer to fund a borehole.

It is thought that at least 350 homes have no mains water connection and rely on poor quality wells or springs for their water.

They are just too far from a mains pipeline and would have to bear most of the cost of a connection.

In some cases this could run into tens of thousands of pounds.

At present, Northern Ireland Water provides a "Reasonable Cost Allowance" of around £2,000 per property to help meet some of the costs to be connected to the "mains".

Many rural home owners with no mains supply are elderly and on low incomes.

They cannot afford to pay the rest of the bill which is often substantial.

One of those is Jenny Morris.

She has lived in the same isolated cottage for more than 80 years.

Her water supply for most of that time came from buckets carried up the road from a nearby well.

However, old age and water pollution has left her dependent on neighbours. They bring her bottled water on a daily basis.

Isolated dwellings

Image caption It is thought 350 homes in Northern Ireland have no mains water connection

She has tap water that comes from a spring well beside the house.

But it is tainted with peat and iron and comes out of the tap brown in colour. And it is so polluted that it has been declared a health hazard.

She has been quoted £18,000 just to pipe water from the road at the bottom of the hill, but she cannot afford it. So she has waited 80 years for mains water.

However, her waiting could soon be over.

This new Rural Bore Wells Scheme means she could have all the costs met for a borehole and a well right beside her house. She would only have to pay to have it connected to her tap.

"This scheme can help address longstanding concerns about isolated dwellings where the cost of extending the mains network is prohibitive," said Danny Kennedy, the Northern Ireland Assembly's regional development minister who introduced the scheme.

He said the grant of £10,000 should cover the total cost of drilling the bore well.

"It won't cover the ongoing maintenance but I think it will make a huge difference in the lives of a great many people who have never had access to mains water before," Mr Kennedy said.

Homes built before 2000 and which have no access to mains water should qualify for the scheme which begins this June and runs for four years.