Invest in water and not tax cuts

Water rationing is back for a lot of folk living in the north-east. Tesco has placed a limit of six bottles of water per customer at its stores in the area, not because of some regional drought but because of a burst water main.

It doesn’t come as a surprise to most of us. Up to recently, there were copious articles written in all media, virtually on a daily basis, on the protests around Irish Water and plans by the Government to start charging for water.

The Fine Gael-Labour coalition went ahead anyway and introduced water charges. Hundreds of thousands of water meters were installed across the country. That angered many more people, and led to street protests and huge rallies. Smelling blood, a number of left- wing parties and local independents jumped on the band wagon.

After the 2016 election, we ended up with a minority government led by Fine Gael but backed by Fianna Fáil. It’s unstable but unlikely anyone will push for an election anytime soon. The idea of charging for water was dropped as political expediency ruled yet again.

One of the main reasons for centralising management and maintenance of water resources was that underground pipe networks were in a dire state, and a significant amount of costly-clean water was being lost through leaks.

Increased demand for clean water also required ways of encouraging conservation. It’s reasonable to assume that when one pays for something that householders take more care of it.

The Government even tried conservation bribes. The whole set up was ridiculous. Irish Water says 1,000km of Victorian-era piping needs to be replaced at a total cost of €13bn.

Let’s see if Leo or Pashcal can spring that from some newly found fiscal space. The potential for other major leaks is a big worry, including in major cities like Cork. Some €3.5bn has been earmarked for repairs over the next few years.

But more investment is needed, not budget measures to cut the tax of the already reasonably well paid.


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