Two areas of Galway are suffering from a lack of water this week, with residents and businesses in Newcastle and two of the Aran Islands affected by restrictions and interruptions in supply.
Water is an easy service to take for granted; apart from rare exceptions, we have lived our lives with a seemingly infinite supply of fresh, potable, water available on tap at no cost. As this is about to change with the introduction of water charges, we need to step up and demand a better service in return for our money.
As the responsibility for our water services transitions from local authorities to Irish Water, residents are finding it difficult to even establish which authority is responsible for maintaining the supply and addressing shortages in this interim period, something which was highlighted regarding the supply in Inis Meain this week. The island operates a group scheme, but the council has historically been responsible for providing a back-up supply of drinking water to the island when its own limited supply runs low. Now the islanders are waiting to see when, or if, that back-up supply will be approved. Islanders on Inis Oírr are also facing critically low water supplies.
Residents in Newcastle are also waiting to have their water shortages, due to leaks in the local infrastructure, addressed, and all this is not simply a Galway phenomenon; similar stories have been reported in Kildorrery, Co Cork, and Drogheda, Co Louth, in the last week, with residents in both areas complaining of little or no action on the problem.
Irish Water will begin metering the water supply to homes up and down the country from October, and we can expect our first bills to arrive at the start of 2015. While hiccups are part of any transition of services — and it appears the reported leaks are, at least, unexpected — it is imperative that Irish Water firmly takes control of the service it administers, and provides a reliable service to all its customers, before it asks us to pay for this vital resource.