WATER charges for householders are inevitable as the country struggles to balance future supply and demand as well as complying with EU regulations.
That is according to water expert and head of Ireland’s largest infrastructure consultancy, Jerry Grant, who warned yesterday that the pace of recent development of the water supply network has not kept up with needs.
There’s a need for “massive investment” in water supply services, says Mr Grant, but society “appears unwilling” to accept a system of payment by consumers for water use.
“The level of investment needed is not sustainable from a public taxation point of view,” he said. “We’re relying on systems that are very old, some of the pipelines are over 100 years old and are continually deteriorating. We have to keep investing, but we haven’t been, so in order to fund the backlog we need to have a sustainable revenue source.”
Ireland is almost unique in the European Union in not charging for household water, said the managing director of RPS Consulting Engineers and chairman of RPS Group Ireland, speaking ahead of the second national water summit which takes place today and tomorrow in Croke Park.
“I don’t think people appreciate how much investment is needed to take regulation into account and the need to clean up water under the Water Framework Directive and combine it with climate change and drainage issues, and protecting areas from flooding.”
Mr Grant said yesterday that a report some years ago from Engineers Ireland calling for the introduction of water charges had effectively been mothballed. “The political system isn’t receptive to it at the moment.”
The water summit event brings together water experts and those involved in the industry to discuss the future of supply and the challenges facing the country as demand increases.
Minister of State Michael Kitt will address today’s proceedings while topics to be dealt with over the course of the summit include: future needs and options for the Dublin region; implementation of the Drinking Water Regulations; water resources in the next 50 years; water, food, energy, and climate change; water conservation and demand and water charging on public schemes.
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