Why this is important to Wisconsin businesses: The sector is growing rapidly as Ireland's economy shifts its emphasis away from legacy industries.
Ireland has recovered from the global economic downturn followed by the financial crisis, which hit the country quite severely. After low and sometimes negative GDP growth between 2008 and 2013, Ireland was able to boost its economy by over 26 percent in 2015 compared to the previous year, and over 5 percent in 2016. The National Treasury Management Agency currently forecasts stable economic growth, projecting an increase in GDP of 4.3 percent this year and 3.6 percent in 2018.
A shortage of investment and savings in recent years have led to a need for modernizing water technology in Ireland. According to an analysis by the Irish Environmental Protection Agency, distribution losses in the drinking water supply amount to 46 million liters per day. Moreover, wastewater treatment did not conform to EU regulations and requirements in 28 of 171 Irish municipalities in 2015. The capacity for physical and biological sewage treatment was insufficient in 18 cities and communities, and 10 villages did not have any kind of wastewater treatment plants at all. Therefore, in 2015, Irish Water, the state-owned company that provides water and wastewater services, announced a business and investment plan. Through 2021, €5.5 billion will be spent on the water supply and disposal network. In addition, a water and wastewater industry cluster was established in Ireland partly for the purpose of spurring technology innovation in that sector.
As a result, Ireland’s imports of water technology equipment increased by 1 percent to €735.1 million in 2016. Rotary pumps and fittings made up 49 percent of these imports, and plastic pipes for the water industry made up 21 percent. Another factor in the increasing focus on water technology in Ireland is that the production share of several key sectors, as a share of total Irish industrial production, is declining: the rubber, plastics and machinery sectors have been declining, making room for water technology to increase, along with other rising sectors such as pharmaceuticals, food, chemicals and electronics.
As water technology increases overall, there is an increased demand for imports, and the U.S. is one of the leading sources of Irish water technology imports. Since 2010, U.S. exports of products related to water technology, including pipes and fittings, pumps and elevators, water filtering machinery and valves, have increased by 37 percent. In 2010, those exports amounted to $57.9 million, and they reached $79.9 million last year. The U.S. contributed more than 10 percent of Ireland’s water technology imports in 2016.
Wisconsin’s exports of water technology products to Ireland have nearly doubled in recent years, from $1.1 million in 2012 to $2.1 million in 2016. In the first five months of 2017, Wisconsin shipped water technology equipment worth $446,600 to Ireland.
Wisconsin companies in the water technology industry should not ignore opportunities in Ireland. They may consider attending the WWT Water Ireland Conference in Ashbourne in March 2018 or retrieving information from the Irish Water Treatment Association (www.iwta.ie) or the Irish Onsite WasteWater Association (www.iowa.ie).