Irish households will be directly charged for their water later this year with the first bills arriving through your door in January 2015. The average charge for a household is expected to be €240 per year.
The government has given a temporary commitment that a free water allowance of 30,000 litres of water will be made available per year while a further free annual allowance of 38,000 litres will be given for each child. Notwithstanding the fact that this allowance is almost certainly to be reduced in the coming years, the allowance is already insufficient.
A typical shower will use up approximately 80 litres so if you shower once a day, you will have used up your entire annual allowance before using any water to drink, wash dishes, wash clothes or flush toilets with.
Up to now, all water services were considered a public good and were paid for through general taxation. This made it progressive and meant that low-paid workers, the unemployed and those most vulnerable did not have to contribute as much as the very wealthy.
While the expected average household charge will be €240 per year in 2015, it is expected that the charge will increase over time. Like the introduction of bin charges, we believe water charges will multiply over time. We believe the Irish government will sell off Irish Water as a State asset making it a “for profit” essential service.
The argument for water charges
Those in favour of water charges argue that this will promote conservation. We do not believe this is the real reason for introducing water charges. If the government were genuinely concerned about the conservation of water, they could invest in fixing and upgrading infrastructure.
The real reason for the introduction of water charges is to charge citizens for a basic human right and to turn an essential service into a profit making commodity.
The future for Irish water provision
Former Minister for the Environment, European Commissioner and Chief Aide to the Taoiseach, Phil Hogan has publicly stated: “Everybody will pay based on water usage. For people who don’t pay, their water pressure will be turned down to a trickle for basic human reasons and that won’t be too attractive for them.”
If the introduction of water charges goes ahead, we believe it will inevitably lead to the full privatisation of water supply in Ireland. Once water supply is in the hands of corporations and for-profit enterprises, we expect all allowances or credits to be cut or eradicated. We also expect prices to soar while services deteriorate. There is evidence of this from all around the world and from the privatisation of other industries in Ireland like waste disposal.
A warning to the Irish people…Detroit, USA
Thousands of citizens living in the city of Detroit in the USA have recently had their water cut off – mostly people in poorer communities – simply because they cannot afford to pay their bills. Is this what’s ahead for the people of Ireland? We believe this is the first step towards being forced to make that terrible choice between paying your mortgage or rent, your electricity or gas bill, or your water charges. This will cause huge anxiety for the poorest and most vulnerable in our society.
At a time when poverty and deprivation rates are approaching an all-time high, when Ireland has a homelessness crisis, when tens of thousands of households are in mortgage arrears and when a lack of disposable income is contributing to an unemployment crisis, the introduction of water charges will only exacerbate these problems by taking more money out of ordinary workers’ pockets.