Sinn Féin spokesperson on Water Eoin Ó Broin TD has warned the government not to revisit the introduction of domestic water charges.
The comments come as an OECD report on the state’s environmental performance highlights how decades of under investment by the state has left Ireland’s water infrastructure in a decrepit state.
Teachta Ó Broin said:
“The OECD report today highlights inadequacies in this state’s water infrastructure. The report notes that it ‘suffers from high water losses, hot spots of low drinking water quality and inadequate wastewater treatment’.
“The report makes four recommendations on water quality and management. These include investment in the water infrastructure and in drinking water supply, addressing nutrient losses in the water supply due to agriculture, and to assess whether the funding model for water services is sufficient to cover the high investment costs and whether household water charges would be an appropriate financing source.
“The debate over domestic water charges was lost in 2017. A cross-party Oireachtas committee report assessed the funding model for water services and recommended that normal household usage should be paid for by the state in the form of general taxation.
“The so-called ‘excessive use’ charge use was adopted as a political fudge between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael and would in reality will cost more to administer than it would have brought in.
“Reigniting the domestic charge debate is a distraction and deflects from the failure of government to prioritise public spending in water infrastructure.
“We know that there has been historic underinvestment in our wastewater treatment. The EPA raises the consequences of this underinvestment every year, while the EU Commission has a case pending against the state on this very issue.
“The certainty of funding to Irish Water to prioritise investment in fixing pipes and wastewater treatment can be done through multi-annual funding commitments from government, so there is certainty in terms of investment.
“In terms of protecting our water supply, we are still waiting on the long-promised Water Abstraction legislation and the government is still refusing to allow the bill providing Constitutional protection for our water resources to progress.”