Repairing water network ‘will mean less for health, education’

Economist Colm McCarthy says ageing system subjected to prolonged underinvestment

Repairing the water network will mean less funding for health and education, economist Colm McCarthy has said. Photograph: Getty Images

Repairing the water network will mean less funding for health and education, economist Colm McCarthy has said. Photograph: Getty Images

 

The Government has the option of prioritising funding the repair of the water network, but it will mean less money for other issues such as health and education, according to economist Colm McCarthy.

If the economy continues to grow then tax revenue will also increase “under its own steam”, said Mr McCarthy, but if the economy slows then tax revenue will also slow down which will mean less money for the exchequer.

Mr McCarthy said at present Irish Water’s commercial revenue is “way below” the company’s operating costs and, on top of that, there is a “really big bill for capital expenditure”.

His comments came the first stage of repairs were completed on a burst pipeline in the Drogheda area, which has that left tens of thousands of people in the northeast without water since last week.

Irish Water said reservoir levels were refilling slowly following the repair and that it was carefully managing the water entering the main, but warned it could take months and millions of euro to replace a longer part of the pipeline.

Regarding the water pipe network, Mr McCarthy told Newstalk Breakfast: “It will take a lot to get this situation fixed.”

He said: “A lot of the pipework seems to be 50 - 60 years (old), that’s their lifespan. In fairness to them Irish Water know that inevitably there are going to be problems. They don’t know where they’re going to occur.

“It is as a consequence of an accumulation of under investment in renewing the network over the years.

“They are going to have to find hundreds of millions to renew the network. Until this is done there will be future problems.”

Mr McCarthy said one of the advantages of setting up Irish Water as a State-owned utility was the expectation that they would get the network “up to speed”.