ICMSA President, John Comer has called on all involved in formulating and publicising water charges to provide much needed clarity without delay and he has stated that concerns about the possibility of drastic hikes in water charges to farms will grow after the axing of the subvention provided by Rural Broadband Scheme and the news that broadband providers intend increasing charges by up to €180 per annum for 45,000 rural customers.
Mr Comer said that that farmers, as mixed-users, were already hopelessly confused as recent proposals suggest they will be billed by both Irish Water and their Local Authority at two different rates for basically the same water and he continued to note that inefficiencies and inconsistencies seemed to be incorporated into the structure of the water provider.
He noted that Irish Water are proposing to charge farmers €2.44 per thousand litres of water based on an assessed charge of how much a home with a certain number of occupants will consume.
The Water Charges Plan recently published for consultation by the Commission for Energy Regulation assumes the first adult in the household will consume 66,000 litres per annum with every additional adult occupant assumed to consume another 21,000 litres with children’s usage up to that level supposed to be free.
“For starters, we note that 21,000 litre allowances per child set out in the Plan are considerably lower than the announcement by the Government of up to 38,000 litres per child.
“Then we’re told that the household allowance of 30,000 litres will be deducted to arrive at an assessed water usage figure for the farm family with Irish Water billing them for domestic usage while the local authority will bill for usage deemed to be farm-related – that will necessarily involve two different prices to two different agencies for exactly the same water”.
Mr Comer said it is an unacceptable and ludicrous situation whereby there has been a considerable cost to the taxpayer in the establishment of Irish Water as a national water utility yet duplication and inefficiencies in the delivery of the water service appear to be ‘designed-into’ the very structure of the company.
“There’s a longstanding suspicion that one of the reasons why Irish utility prices are so high relative to other states is the tendency of our utility providers to see their staff’s welfare and conditions as a priority over the supply and service they were set up to provide and - certainly so far - Irish water has done absolutely nothing to change that idea.
The plan for Irish Water to charge for the domestic portion of water usage and the Local Authority to charge for the water used on the farm is yet another example of wilful waste of time and money in the public service and will raise concerns that the charges involved will inexorably climb to excessive levels.
We know that the Government Subvention is scheduled to end in 2016, only this week in relation to rural broadband services, we got a very graphic illustration of how much the service providers will ‘jack-up’ their charges as Government subvention is withdrawn.
This must not happen in relation to water charges”, said Mr Comer.
Mr Comer concluded by stating that ICMSA have requested a meeting with the Commission for Energy Regulation, which have responsibility for water pricing policy, to discuss and resolve this and other issues.