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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: November 23, 2009 @ 10:49 am

    The Rain it Raineth Every Day

    Deaglán de Bréadún

    When we started this blog, I didn’t think I’d find myself writing about the weather. But it never ceases to amaze me that, with all our experience of rain, we still can’t cope with it. Am I dreaming, or are people really queuing for drinking-water? And our roads and bridges in some areas are in a “state of chassis”. Time to revive the old political promise about draining the Shannon.

    • robespierre says:

      There are far too many authorities involved: the Local Authorities, Waterways Ireland, An Taisce, the EPA, the ESB etc.

      There should be a single water authority that makes these calls with agreements with the ESB in relation to flood build-ups.

      The problem is not with our system of weirs, which works pretty well. The problem is with our flood plains and the lack of reinforced embankments deployed by each area susceptible to flooding.

      The Dodder, Tolka and Dargle have all burst their banks within the last 10-15 years and work has been done to try to prevent this in future. The Shannon is pretty well controlled. The problem is the uncontrolled volumes from the rivers.

      Look at Northern Ireland – no problems – reason: good civil engineering.

    • paul m says:

      Water, water, everywhere, but not a drop to drink in sight!

      Oh the cruel irony: come summertime we’ll be told to conserve water.

      And water meters? Save yourself the trouble there Mr Gormley and spend the money on storm drains and increasing reservoir capacity.

    • Dan Sullivan says:

      Amazing that there appears to have been no means to alert people (not just officials) in Cork city in time. I would note that there is in fact a cell broadcast facility in mobile phone technology that would have allowed everyone with a mobile defined by the base station cells to be notified that the dam was about to let out and to take action accordingly. Sure, local radio is very popular in more rural areas but the mentality wherever you happen to be that you should be sat by the radio to ensure that you hear about the warning is utterly arse over backwards. Why the state in awarding mobiles licences doesn’t make use of the access to the network in emergencies is beyond me. I think it’s a legitimate question that someone should be asking.

    • dealga says:

      Well Paul do you harvest rainwater in your home? Sure with all our rain it makes perfect sense for the homeowner, just buy a big bucket … or, er, spend a couple of thousand for a proper system.

      Nah, you won’t do that, sure with all that rain we have falling from the sky we’re perfectly within our rights to assume that as much as we want will be collected, treated, stored and delivered into our homes for free, aren’t we ..?

    • kynos says:

      Water is a human right. It’s what 70% or thereabouts of us is made of. Now, isn’t it reasonable to assume that given the damage that past and current governments and their industrial owners and rich agricultural patrons have done to our waterways that we ought to expect recompense in the form of clean safe drinking water? Given we cannot any longer reliably obtain it eau naturelle?

    • Stephen says:

      Water charges will come. FF’s pandering to the electorate with the abolition of local rates was a complete disaster, as bad as their pandering to local builders to keep the gravy train going. Cork’s broken waterworks is basically in need of replacement. However it has to come from Central Government where other counties are asking also for cash. Car parking fees won’t cover it nor library fines. So where does it come from? taxes (want to pay more anyone?) or borrowing (yes, who cares where it comes from and what it costs – what my kids will end up paying for it?- ahhh sure who cares then that’s for another time…_). At the moment you can turn on the tap and never turn it off, with no consequences. Yes rainwater is fit to drink. I welcome everyone to abandon their taps and just drink out of the buckets left outside. Yes I welcome Paul to reject any water taxes and just drink from the sky. It won’t be swine flu he will have and I bet he’ll complain about paying for doctor and A&E fees when he gets poisoned….Trocaire etc do not build wells to access clean water when the annual monsoons arrive. Want proper infrastructure? Open the wallet – it will need to be bulging for the bills to come..

    • robespierre says:

      Water falls from the sky for free but it is not free to provide. There are significant charges involved in pumping it uphill to reservoirs so that areas can be supplied with water.

      It is true that there has been under-investment but a charge of €40 per month for access to something that you cannot live three days without would seem to be to be a fair charge.

      Dublin has 1% spare capacity at best after reducing the leakage rate by one quarter over the last five years. There will always be some level of leakage and once ours is brought down to about 15% that is as good as it gets (current rate is about 30%).

      We do underexploit groundwater in Ireland but as others have pointed out, the impractical (impossible) consequences of the nitrates directive means pumping grounds water out of aquifers for treatment like in North Dublin where it supplies 3% of the city requirements. Just not enough.

      Incidentally, the nitrates directive prohibits fertilizing land within five days of rainfall. With the best will in the world how can farmers actually live with a law made for European summers not for Irish ones?

    • Richard says:

      Just to clarify a misconception above, yes, An Taisce monitor water quality, but they are not an ‘authority’ in the sense that the other state bodies are. Rather they serve a watchdog role and are an environmental charity.

      An Taisce have however been warning for years of the consequences of overdevelopment in river basins causing more rapid runoff and consequent flooding. Some Local Authorities have granted permissions for housing on flood plains or large areas of surface car parking causing rapid runoff to rivers.

    • Liam says:

      It would seem there is a lot of moral hazard here, we seem to be in the habit of supporting people financially who live in the middle of nowhere or halfway up a mountain or who want to built property next to rivers that, shock-horror, flood form time to time. If we had a volcano, some cute hoor would have managed to get a public road built up there by now and would be selling sites for tasteful duplexes with full PP. The only just solution is that the cost of local flood defences are paid by the locals that live there. I see no reason why their house and land prices are ring fenced and that others should foot the bill.

    • Laura says:

      @Robespierre, No flooding in Northern Ireland? Am I imagining the news stories about flooding in Fermanagh then? It’s one of the first stories on the Belfast Telegraph. Good civil engineering, eh? Same good civil engineering that the British authorities have in Cumbria?

      Irish rivers are extremely shallow. Take a look at the river Lee by the Lee Fields in Cork next time it isn’t in spate. You can see the bottom of the river the whole way across. Dredging them might help.

    • Deaglán says:

      Gosh, my wee paragraph certainly started a debate. Water is the new oil, they say. Water-charges are going to come sometime, probably in the next five years or so.

    • robespierre says:


      Irish rivers are not necessarily shallow, they are controlled by weirs.

      Big difference.

    • kynos says:

      Saw Jarhead again the other night. That scene out of Danté God I hate clichés in criticism where the marines are staggering through a desert day made night by blazing oil-wells, the pollution pouring down on them vaporised hydrocarbons, seems to fit. Pouring randomly from the polluted skies neither oil nor water are as much use to us as when both are safely in the ground or under our control in the refined format.

    • Elka says:

      The Government needs to get the Dutch in to sort out the waterworks for this country. Not only are they able to hold back the North Sea, they manage the drainage of some of Europe’s most powerful rivers. At the same time. And all this with half their country below sea level!!! Enough bla-bla blaming, time to get the professionals in!

      (Once that’s done, then they can get started on the rest of the country’s infrastructure. How long has Ireland been working on integrated public transport ticketing…?)

    • kynos says:

      I would be prepared to countenance water charges if a) there was a Constitutional amendment guaranteeing every human being on this island a sufficient quantity of water necessary to sustain life dignity happiness and health absolutely free of all charge and encumbrance for eternity and a day. Fresh, clean, water. We’re 70% composed of it and the remainder, as I like to remind yiz, comprises enough chemicals that mixed together properly would make enough explosive to bring down Government Buildings. B) That the charge is accompanied by a restrictive clause that would allow for its suspension for as long as any given district’s water supply was compromised in any way, and that suspension can take the form of drawback, or a rebate in the following month’s charges, or a suspension of payment, and C) that the charge is hypothecated to sustaining and maintaining our national water supply. No. It cannot be skived off to oil the skids of some greasy FF or other party deal with some cronies. I should specify FG there they facilitated the destruction of Lough Sheelin by their pigs of farmers supporters. Two specifically I’d name them here but one at least is going through hard times currently and to name the other alone would not be fair. They know who they are and could care less. While governments are controlled by such individuals there is no justification for water charges in this country nor while councils are responsible for the destruction of Ireland’s greatest natural resource. Hydrogen dioxide. Can be terribly dangerous stuff when in sufficient quantities or lacking in same. My family’s been reduced once or twice by it. Yes. Indeed.

    • robespierre says:

      Actually, a critical consideration in introducing water charges is that the Government also has to pay the charges.

      This may look like a left pocket / right pocket accounting exercise but it is a really important principal in incentivising economy. Government does not pay for its waste, most of it post is ceadúnas franked etc.

      This pushes up prices for the rest of us and discourages public sector economy.

      The other key factor is that by paying for water provision the international convention is the following:
      a) duties are ring fenced to pay for the service
      b) they are accompanied with clear performance requirements and quality standards
      c) it empowers the end user as you now have consumer rights and consumer law applies (fit for purpose etc.)

      If these conditions prevail it will be a step forward for the country. We will be paying but for a better product, better regulated with better tracing systems for pollution events.

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