Managing the national water supply

Tue, Apr 17, 2012, 01:00

Sir, – The Government is due to take a decision this week on setting up a national water utility to manage the nation’s water resources (Home News, April 16th). Where did this idea come from? There has been no public debate on this proposal. Yet it looks as if it may become a fait accompli without any public discussion on the advantages and disadvantages of the proposal.

The provision of clean drinking water is currently the responsibility of the local authorities, (county and city councils). With the exception of Dublin, most county councils draw the water from sources within their own county. So why change to a system of national control of a local resource? It seems very odd to be removing this power from local authorities at the very time when the government is introducing a household charge ostensibly to increase the finance raised locally to fund local services.

The new National Water Utility will be empowered to charge households for their usage of water. Why not let the local authorities issue the water rates bill, since they are the ones who supply the water? Surely this would be more publicly acceptable than having another centrally-determined tax? Indeed, would it not lead to a better allocation of resources if each local authority were allowed to charge a rate per cubic metre that reflected the local cost of supplying water, rather than imposing a single national rate?

The new National Water Utility will not provide the water supply; it will still rely on the engineers and maintenance staff of the local authorities to produce, store, purify and deliver the water through the local pipelines and reservoirs.

Are we, therefore, in danger of replicating the disaster of the HSE, where we created a completely new bureaucracy on top of the existing bureaucracy of the old health boards? I presume there must be some advantages to setting up a National Water Utility. But no one has articulated them publicly.

Could we at least have a public discussion of the proposal, so that we can weigh the pros and cons, and consider whether alternative proposals might work better, before we give national powers over our water supply to a new agency? – Yours, etc,

DAVID BUTTIMER,

The Spa,

Tralee, Co Kerry.

A chara, – Electricity and gas meters are owned by the respective companies. They service them. They monitor them. They calibrate them. They read them. They replace them if necessary.

Who will be responsible for the water meters? More importantly, who will own the water meter for which I pay? Will I have a choice of meters? Will I have a choice of models/maufacturers from which to buy? Or will there be another unaccountable monopoly supplier? Will the water company have to get my permission to gain access or even to touch my meter every time they need to? Whatever happened to the suggestion from the German company Siemens to supply and install all meters? There must be many other companies willing to quote for the work, so why not put it out to tender?

Finally, can I have a guarantee that the first €500 million or €1 billion or whatever the relevant amount is, will be ringfenced and spent repairing all the leaks before any money is distributed in profits?

We simply cannot afford to continue allowing any water to leak, (never mind the amounts reported to range from 20 per cent to over 70 per cent). – Is mise,

SEÁN O KIERSEY,

Kill Abbey,

Deansgrange,

Blackrock, Co Dublin.

Sir, – At last it’s official: the Taoiseach Enda Kenny has announced that in the latest round of his Government’s game of “Burn the Taxpayer”, the victims themselves are to be billed for the cost of the firewood! – Yours,etc,

BERNARD KEOGH,

Dollymount Park,

Clontarf,

Dublin 3.

Sir, – Most people seem not to appreciate that Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s announcement that householders would have to pay for their water meters is the act of a true statesman.

An Taoiseach, reflecting on his position as head of government, realised he represents both his supporters and opponents in equal measure; he was, therefore, obliged to furnish those unhappy with his Government with more concrete opportunities to voice their dissatisfactions. And, after the success of the household charge scheme – as an opportunity for protest and civil disobedience, that is – it is only logical that he attempts to reproduce that achievement.

Indeed, Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan’s co-ordination of the project is almost guaranteed to result in demonstration, creative placards and much chanting.

So while the Occupy Movement, lacking a focus, has largely faded away, and disgruntled European citizens protest to no real effect in opposition to austerity in general, An Taoiseach has facilitated the Irish citizenry in concentrating their energies on a clear and tangible issue. A true statesman, indeed. – yours, etc,

RICHARD SCRIVEN,

Ballinlough,

Cork.