Galway households could be hit with a water bill of €740 a year under the controversial domestic water metering scheme to come into effect after next year’s Local Elections.
This is the warning from Reform Alliance senator Fidelma Healy-Eames, who was speaking on the Water Services Bill 2013 in the Seanad this week.
The provision of water currently costs €1.2 billion. Of this, €200 million is raised by commercial water rates, leaving the sum of €1 billion for domestic water provision. In the Seanad, Sen Healy-Eames asked the Minister of State at the Department of the Environment Fergus O’Dowd, where would the €1 billion go that the State would save as a result of the introduction of water charges.
Minister O’Dowd was not in a position to clarify where the €1 billion collected from taxpayers would go, saying “I’m not the Minister for Finance.”
Sen Healy-Eames said the question must be answered, because if the €1 billion is broken down among the 1.35 million households in the State, the figure would amount to an annual average charge of about €740 per household.
The Minister was unable to confirm anything on the point raised by the Galway senator. As a result she is calling for “urgent clarity and transparent information” on an issue of concern to the public.
“We don’t know where this tax money will now go and Irish families face a considerable, though yet unknown, amount of money as a new charge for water,” she said. “A new water charge is an added charge on people already paying taxes. We have a lot of unanswered questions.”
Concerns that the State’s water service was to be privatised were raised by Sinn Féin senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh, who called for water to remain in public ownership.
“The Government is clearly intent on privatisation of Irish water,” he said. “Water is an important public utility and should remain in public ownership.”
Currently 34 local authorities supply water to nearly two million households across the State, and while Sen Ó Clochartaigh acknowledged there is a need for better coordination, the Water Services Bill is “not the way forward”.
He also said the original plan was that the Local Authorities would continue to provide the infrastructure and operational activity to deliver water services to the public, but this was not reflected in the legislation.
“This Bill is designed to prepare the Irish water system for eventual privatisation,” he said. “Sinn Féin is opposed to the establishment of Irish Water and to the confiscation and transfer of public assets