Scottish Water has installed a £24 million “strategic water main” to improve the security of the water supply for more than 85,000 people in parts of North Ayrshire.

The construction of a 7.3 mile-long water main south of Drybridge, near Dreghorn, to the west of Eglinton Country Park will reduce the risk of burst mains for customers for “decades to come,” the company said.

The new plastic main was installed on mainly rural land and will replace an old concrete main, whose route goes through more built-up areas and will be decommissioned in due course.

It will also improve accessibility for Scottish Water to undertake maintenance and repair work.

The project, carried out for Scottish Water by alliance partners Caledonia Water Alliance was part of the utility’s ongoing £120 million investment in its water mains infrastructure, which will benefit almost 220,000 people in much of Ayrshire and part of East Renfrewshire.

Jane McKenzie, Scottish Water’s communications manager, said: “Scottish Water is delighted to have completed the installation of the new water main in the Irvine area.

“We are always striving to improve the security of supply of clearer, fresher drinking water that we provide to customers 24-7 across the length and breadth of Scotland.

“This investment in the Irvine area will significantly improve the resilience of our network and reduce the potential for burst water mains and the disruption to customers they can cause.

“Our work inevitably meant some inconvenience for customers and businesses in the area but we are sure that any short-term inconvenience caused by this work will be far out-weighed by the long-term benefits our improvements will deliver.”

Scottish Water said it carried out environmental, ecological and archaeological studies to ensure that its work did not adversely affect the areas around the main route.

Where any sensitive habitats or protected species were encountered Scottish Water managed these responsibly and under licence from Scottish Natural Heritage or the Scottish Environment Protection Agency, where required.

This included avoiding disturbing some breeding birds by temporarily stopping work in autumn 2017.

Pipe-laying work was stopped after sand martins nested on both banks of an excavation housing a dewatering system, used to drain the ground of water, on a flood plain near the Garrier Burn at Drybridge.

The birds and their nests are fully protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

Scottish Water also liaised with Eglinton Country Park during the Irvine project and ensured that plant recovery time was minimised and paths and access routes were fully reinstated quickly.