Mark O’Dwyer is currently doing an internship with Development Perspectives and studying Development in Kimmage Development Studies Centre. This is the fourth in his series of blogs regarding water.
I have been focusing a lot on what people will expect from the public water service, but to change the focus slightly of the last few blogs to the people who will be getting their water from group water schemes (lakes and wells) and from private water supplies (groundwater).
Group water schemes are set up when two or more households come together to create and provide their own water supply. Group schemes are usually set up where the local authority, have not and in some cases have no intention of setting up a water supply. These group schemes can get water supplies from the public mains if possible or a private source such as a well or lake. Group water schemes only have to pay for the water they use if it comes from a private source, and in response to this the local authorities provide subsidies for each house in a group scheme. Local authorities are not responsible for the maintenance of the group scheme pipelines and filtration systems; however, they are responsible for the testing of the quality of the drinking water.
Private water supplies on the other hand such as wells, can be bored if the owner of the land wishes to do so, however, they will need a water diviner to tell them where to dig, although the water diviner won’t be able to tell them how far they have to dig or how much water they are likely to get.
As far as I can tell there is no immediate plans for government to charge for either of these, I know for a fact that there are people who will be browned off because they have to pay for the water they use from the public service, but, people can get water for free if it is on or under their privately owned land. What happens then with group water schemes where they are tapping into the public system? Do they begin to pay charges that we all pay? Or do they get the water for free and just have to pay for the infrastructure? In my first blog I questioned who owns water, the reason for this is to separate or equate the ownership of water in Ireland among citizens. Since it’s a vital natural resources and a human right, as citizens of this country are we not entitled to an equal share of the drinkable water within this country? I personally think it’s unfair that if you are lucky enough to live on land with groundwater or a lake flowing through it you’ll get water for free but the rest of us don’t. If we are to pay for it then we have a right to some shape or form of ownership over it. This doesn’t seem to be a method of water conservation, this seems as if it is about balancing the books (paying for the cost of provision). Secondly, if there is no charge for water use from privately owned sources, doesn’t this essentially help provide the argument that the water system in Ireland will become privately owned? It is making it pretty clear that the Irish government believe that water is a resource that can be privately owned. This seems, to me at least, that the government position on this is that if you own the land on which water flows through, you own the water. So although the government tell us there are no plans for private companies to provide water to homes in Ireland, I have to say I simply don’t believe them. The privatisation of our water service is on the horizon in my opinion. Because if you join the dots here, you see that water, according to our government isn’t a human right, if some people own it because it happens to be on or under their land, it’s a commodity, which can be monopolised.
In my opinion if you are using water which comes from the state regardless of what means through which it arrives, we all pay for it or none of us do, it’s the only fair way to distribute a vital natural resource such as water.