Wednesday, June 2, 2010

You can achieve water conservation without water charges

The Government are paving the way for the introduction of full domestic water charges. The pretext for the introduction of water charges is water conservation. This is surely a joke when you consider what little has been done to encourage and achieve water conservation in the past. Despite an explosion of housing development with an average of 60,000 units built each year over the last decade little was done to incorporate water-saving technologies in new homes. In any event to conserve water the first thing that needs to be done is the upgrading of our water infrastructure to deal the fact that almost 40% of treated water is wasted through leaks. This means we are producing almost twice the amount of treated water needed.

Installing meters to facilitate the introduction of water charges will cost about €600 million. To cover this cost householders will be charged sums varying from €200 to €580 depending on the location of the dwelling and other factors. Investing in upgrading the water treatment and delivery systems would be more cost effective than installing meters. It would make far more sense to invest this €600 million in upgrading the system.

But this of course would deny the Government an opportunity to introduce a local cash register in each home. While it has been stated that households will be allocated a free basic allowance with charges for water in excess of this, the reality is once charges are introduced bills for ordinary householders will steadily creep up, as with waste charges, as this becomes one of the few sources of revenue for local authorities. Again as with the introduction of waste charges the introduction of charges for water is a precursor to the privatisation of water services to which we are opposed because water is an essential service best provided by the state.

So what is the alternative? Yesterday I launched the party's campaign of opposition to the introduction of charges with Councillors Brendan Mansfield and Pat Fitzgerald. At the launch we pointed out that you can achieve water conservation without water charges. For example the Government should introduce grants to allow households introduce water-saving technologies such as low-flush showerheads and toilets, grey-water recycling systems, and rainwater harvesting in their homes at affordable prices. This will also create jobs in the green technology area. All new housing builds should also be subject to robust planning guidelines which include high standard water-saving technology. The Government could also roll out a public education campaign informing people of the value of clean water and giving them simple ways to cut their water usage. Of course to do this would miss the point – this has nothing to do with water conservation and everything to do with increasing taxes on those already hit the hardest.

No comments:

Post a Comment