Mark O’Dwyer is currently doing an internship with Development Perspectives and studying Development in Kimmage Development Studies Centre. This is the fifth and final in his series of blogs regarding water.
Over the past few months I have been writing blog posts here on the water system in Ireland, trying to create debate around the coming water charges and how people feel about them. Having researched the topic for a while now, I have decided to try with this final blog post, to design as close to an ideal water system that I can think of.
First of all, regardless of how much water costs the government, it should be charged for, water is a human right, but when abused, it becomes a privilege. If you are a paying customer of the water service, you gain some ownership over it along with all other citizens who have invested in it, which gives you a stronger position and a louder voice in creating a better service. Unfortunately the economic situation in Ireland won’t help a lot of families with an extra bill coming in every month, but even if the reasoning for introducing water charges isn’t conservation, it will motivate it, which is important.
Secondly, the system must be public, to prevent a private monopoly, where the standard and quality of water will drop and the price will rise. This has been tried, tested and failed in more countries than I care to count. Again it is important for the citizens of the country to retain ownership of the water in the state. It is important in Ireland with the massive amount of leaks in the system for all of the money to go back into creating a new updated and quality infrastructure system along with providing a quality service. This however means leaving it in the hands of government, which may be a problem, due to their lack of actually being able to get anything done.
I think that one of the most effective ways in which we can actually conserve and ensure a sustainable water provision service in Ireland is to protect the source of our water, our lakes and rivers. The German system and its success has shown us that it can have sociological and economical positives through incentivising people who own or use land near water sources. The Germans created an idea in which farmers would take up organic farming in areas close to the source, hence lowering the cost of treating water while creating new businesses. This also has knock on effects on the electrical and non-renewable resources that are used, which are colossal.
Meters would have to be installed, as oppose to a flat rate charge. A flat rate charge could give people the opinion they are entitled to use more water than they are already using and would be a step backwards rather than forwards. Also, I would recommend that on the billing information presented to the user, there should be a breakdown to show how the money the customer is spending is making a difference to creating a sustainable water system.
Also, I think people who have private sources of water should have to pay something for it, if everybody else does why shouldn’t they? All water sources should be owned by the state. This includes people involved in group water schemes who would have to pay the private owner of the water usually. (In this case the private owner should have to pay charges to government). I understand they have to pay to set up a water scheme, but it’s only fair that they pay for water at least to some extent.
I feel that any bill coming in to anybody needs to be broken down to show where your money is going (how it is being spent). Providing information on where you can save in the future would also be a massive help to people. Of course doing this will mean extra costs in administration, but at least it means you can keep tabs on government actions.
Although the majority of these blogs have been about domestic water use, I would like to think people who are changing their habits and acting more conservatively because of the changes to a system would then actively engage in issues surrounding water security in the future.
Of course this is a short version of an ideal water system, but if it’s going to be done, it should be done properly. I hope that in my time writing these blogs that I have sparked some thought among those of you who have read them and I’d like to thank you for reading them all!
As always opinions are welcome!