Around 600,000 people in Dublin, Meath, and Kildare have had to boil contaminated water over the last number of weeks before it could be safely consumed. The warning was issued after adverse weather washed organic matter into reservoirs. If this disruption of the supply of one of life’s essentials — a precious and finite one — over entirely predictable events seems, in 2019, bizarre, then yesterday’s EPA report confirms a reckless indifference to basic standards of sanitation and public health. It found that untreated sewage from the equivalent of 77,000 people is still dumped into the environment every day. That bewildering recklessness is so challenging that the inevitable environmental impact seems almost secondary.
In an effort to secure safe water for Cork City, a €40m upgrade of the city waterworks on the Lee Rd has been announced. Irish Water and Cork City Council will work together to deliver this expensive but essential public good.
These three events underline how precious water is and the huge cost in delivering it to every home. It also underlines our unsustainable rejection of water charges. We can huff and puff and blow the house down, but the cost of providing safe water is so great that to pretend it is a right we don’t have to pay for is as foolish as dumping raw sewage into our rivers. It’s time to untangle the knot conflating environmental obligation and taxation policies. It’s time we grew up.