Communications Energy and Natural Resources, Environment

By Jacob Richards

Today marks the first steps towards water charges in Ireland with installation of water meters beginning across the country. As things stand water meters are expected to be in place across the country in time for the introduction of water charges in 2015.  The sight of water meters being installed will no doubt provoke uncertainty for many people and families across the country. This uncertainty will rest on the notion that once introduced there is no telling how high water charges may reach, further squeezing those already stretched to the limit by crippling property taxes and other levies. Yet if any positive can be taken right now it is that there is still time to act out against the introduction of water charges.

The first thing that the public can do is learn to understand the issue of water in Ireland and cut through the spin perpetuated by government in relation to water charges. Firstly the government has been quick to play the environmental card when it comes to talking about water charges. Often times they say it will reduce water consumption and all round be an effective disincentive to waste water. This sounds quite logical when we consider the issue in simplistic terms but the reality is that there is much more to consider in the area of water conservation before we jump to such a conclusion.

In Ireland it is estimated that 16% of Ireland’s water supply goes towards domestic supply. More importantly this means that 86% of Ireland’s water supply will remain unaffected by the introduction of water charges. There has been evidence suggestion that following the introduction of water charges a 6% drop in domestic water supply may occur due to initial fear of the tax and its cost. In the bigger picture this actually equates to just under a 1% drop in consumption of Ireland’s total water supply. Such a minimal figure hardly constitutes success in our efforts to conserve water.

If the government was really serious about conserving water then they should consider more effective avenues to achieving this rather than just taxing those who genuinely cannot pay any more. The most obvious way of doing this would be to initiate a programme of repairing water pipes across the country and reducing the amount of leaks in the system. According to figures based on a 2011 Oireachtas Committee submission some counties such as Kilkenny and Roscommon reported close to 60% water loss in the area. In fact the lowest water wastage on the list went to County Limerick with still close to 20% of water being leaked out of the system. It does not take much by way of intelligence to realise that fixing these leaks would do substantially more in the area of water conservation. Think of how much in revenue this would save in the long run and indeed the jobs it could generate in a programme of public works to repair all these leaks. Undoubtedly this is the only option our government should take if it wants to get serious about water conservation. But the government is clearly not serious about conserving water. What the government is actually serious about is the imposition of further taxes on those paying for an economic crisis they did nothing to create. This is what people need to understand when it comes to government spin on water charges.

And so with this in mind it is clear that water charges should be resisted in great numbers across the country. The government needs to feel heat on this issue and know that people will not take this tax lying down. There is still plenty of time to organise in communities and resist. Ultimately it will be the success of this mobilisation which will determine if the government continues to press ahead with this tax. Undoubtedly political groups will continue to organise for such resistance but it is up to each individual to take up resistance. With huge numbers and displays of solidarity there is still time to rattle the government on this issue and indeed there is the chance to punish them in local elections next year. Now is the time to get prepared and be ready to respond against this reprehensible tax.