ESB and Group Water Schemes

ESB has always been invested in improving the quality of Irish daily life. Today, ESB connects approximately 2.4 million homes and businesses to electricity throughout the country. However, ESB’s impact extends beyond just providing power, as is demonstrated by its role in Group Water Schemes (GWS) in Ireland, established to ensure a reliable and sustainable water supply for rural communities.

GWS are community-owned and managed water systems that provide clean drinking water to homes and farms in rural areas where there is no access to public water supply. These schemes are run by voluntary committees who work to ensure the water supply is maintained and upgraded to meet the needs of the local community. When organising, leaders of the GWS were told to first consult the Group Water Scheme Section of the Department of Local Housing, then construct plans with the assistance of the Department, County Council and ESB water advisory service.

Mural advertisement for Group Water Schemes 1962

From the 1962 ESB Annual Report

At the beginning of the 1960s, only one rural home in eight had access to a piped water supply. Households would have to drudge to the well for water. Now 99.9% of Irish homes have running water, of which GWS still account for 8%.

ESB has been working with GWS since their beginning in 1962, providing technical support to help these schemes become established and improve their infrastructure. ESB has also been involved in the provision of electricity to GWS pumping stations, which is essential for the provision of water supply to the communities. By 1977, ESB had been directly involved in 1,200 schemes and had helped connect 24,000 homes to electric water pumps.

Group Water Scheme details from ESB pamphlet 'Running Water and Plenty of It'

From ESB pamphlet ‘Running Water and Plenty of It’.


While undertaking the Rural Electrification programme, ESB created maps of local areas and did surveys on how mains water may be connected to rural areas. ESB provided these drawings and plans to Group Water Schemes (GWS) and connected the homes to electric water pumps once the pipes were laid.



ESB promoted pumped water as a huge selling point of rural electrification and advertised the GWS specifically, providing pamphlets with details and pricing on connections to electric water pumps under the scheme. ESB partnered with the Irish Countrywoman’s Association in 1960’s with a big push for pumped water in the home.



Through technical support and infrastructure, ESB has played a vital role in facilitating Group Water Schemes in Ireland and bringing running water to rural homes.  By providing electricity to GWS pumping stations and providing essential surveys and drawings free of charge, ESB enabled communities to save costs and make the water connection economically viable for as many homes as possible. ESB were able to support water connection efforts through marketing campaigns and partnerships with voluntary organisations like the ICA. While the Group Water Schemes are an impressive community-led initiative, ESB is proud to have been able to help turn on the tap.