Paying for our water supply

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Water charges have moved closer to a reality with the announcement that the installation of water meters for more than one million homes will begin this week.

Water charges have moved closer to a reality with the announcement that the installation of water meters for more than one million homes will begin this week.

At a cost of €539 million, the installation programme is to commence in Kildare, concentrating on the towns of Maynooth, Leixlip and Celbridge.

The rollout of meters for other parts of the country will continue into the Autumn, with the remaining counties next year.

The estimated date for the arrival of the first water bills is January 2015.

When those bills do arrive, it will represent a huge sea change for Irish households.

Much has been written and debated in favour of, and against, water charges.

The arguments are readily familiar.

That these charges are being introduced in the depths of a recession, when many households are already under huge financial strain, is unfortunate.

Plus they are coming on top of the property tax and a number of other levies, which has left a lot of households in a beleagured state.

And, as yet, there are still no official figures on what the actual cost per household will be.

It all makes for anything but an easy transition.

The Government has argued that the meter programme will, in time, ensure a secure supply of water, which is important for attracting industry.

Also it will improve the quality of the service and will lead to more jobs in the installation process, as elsewhere.

All reasonable and sound arguments underpinning the introduction of this system.

However, how it will wash with a public wearied and inundated by a whole raft of charges and levies remains to be seen.

In its broad thrust the water meter programme can be judged to be a progressive measure. The pay for use principle far exceeds anything that has gone before, specifically the flat fee which was abolished in the 90s.

In theory, at least, it will lead to more responsible usage and a greater public awareness of this precious natural resource.

The recent heat wave brough home yet again how vulnerable we ultimately are when anything disrupts our water supply.

It is a finite resource, one which is all too often taken for granted. This metering programme should have been introduced years ago, rather than in a time of severe economic and financial malaise.