As expectations around a pre-Christmas election gather momentum, especially if Brexit is resolved without chaos, it is unlikely that the idea of water charges will be revisited in the short-term. Despite that understandable, if unwise, evasion, issues around a secure water supply remain critical.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has warned that more than 550,000 Irish Water customers use water at risk of contamination by e.coli or cryptosporidium.
Cork City’s main supply is just one of 60 “at-risk” schemes dotted around the country. Five are in south Dublin/Wicklow, eight in west Dublin, and five in Kerry.
Irish Water, which got €1.1bn from the Government last year, accepted the EPA’s finding of repeated failure to deliver “safe, clean drinking water” and is working on a plan to have all 60 at-risk schemes made safe by 2022.
The campaign against water charges was one of the most divisive in recent history. The majority of people were, even if reluctantly, prepared to pay water charges, but forceful, vocal opposition put an unattractive political price tag on the project, so it was set aside.
Population growth, a need for tens of thousands of new houses, and climate change conspire to suggest the issue will have to be revisited sooner or later.
Any party that offers a fair, transparent, and equitable proposal on how we might avert the risk of e.coli or cryptosporidium in our drinking water might be surprised by the response.