A controversial proposal to pump drinking water into Dublin from the river Shannon in the west of Ireland has been approved by Dublin city councillors.

The plan involves pumping 350 million litres of water per day from Lough Derg to a disused peat bog in Portarlington in the midlands, where it would be treated before being piped to Dublin.

Consultants claim the plan provides the solution to Dublin's projected future water shortage and will serve the capital's water needs for the next 70 years. They further claim that 350 million litres represents 3 per cent of the Shannon's vast water reserve and that its abstraction would have no detrimental effects.

The second phase of the proposal requires government approval. It does not, however, require the permission of any local authority in the Shannon region, where it has met strong opposition from politicians, boating enthusiasts and members of the farming community, who have united to form the Shannon Protection Alliance Group.

Crucial for those behind the plan is that while the Dublin region, which encompasses parts of counties Wicklow and Kildare, produces 518 million litres a day, it consumes 540 and has dangerously low reserves. Also in the plan's favour is the fact that a number of major multinational employers in the region have expressed concern about the security of water supplies. Many see the scheme as vital for economic growth and attracting future businesses to the region.

If approved, the plan would cost