Fianna Fáil seeks examination of water conservation methods

Oireachtas committee to examine expert commission’s report

Different methods of encouraging water conservation apart from applying charges on customers need to be examined by the Oireachtas committee examining the future of water charges, Fianna Fáil has said.

Barry Cowen, the party spokesman with responsibility for water charges, has said he believed there should be disincentives for excessive use of water, such as filling a swimming pool.

Mr Cowen, however, said it had not been "scientifically proven" that charges were the best way of discouraging excessive use.

The Oireachtas committee will examine the report of the Expert Commission on Domestic Public Water Charges, which found that water should be paid for by the State but customers should pay for excessive uses, although this is not defined.

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The commission will make its own recommendations within three months. It will be chaired by Independent Senator Pádraig Ó Céidigh and is due to meet for the first time tomorrow.

Speaking on Newstalk radio's Sunday Show, Mr Cowen said that while he believes in having disincentives for excessive use, various options to do so should be explored.

“So you have to ask yourself, and the committee must ask itself: what’s normal use, what’s excessive use, should we continue with individual metering or should there be district metering, which is a recommendation again of the committee; what methods of conservation should be explored other than the view of the previous government that the only form of conservation in town, as far as they were concerned, was the enforcement of water charges?”

Mr Cowen said water charges were initially proposed during the economic crisis to help bridge the gap between State income and expenditure – but claimed this was no longer necessary.

“At present we are paying for it out of general taxation. “The model and the construct that had been put in place previously had failed.”

He said that if water continued to be funded through general taxation, methods of doing so should also be explored.