Education about methods of water conservation could be one way of encouraging people to pay their water charges on time, it was suggested at this week’s meeting of Westmeath County Council.
Presenting a revenue report to councillors this week, head of finance Jimmy Dalton said collecting money from water metering was proving particularly difficult. “Water charges have dramatically increased, and there is also a culture out there whereby people think water and wastewater charges are included in commercial rates. We will only solve this over time by working with people,” he said.
Cllr Robert Troy said the council should be advising water customers how to conserve water through methods such as rain harvesting, in order to help alleviate the cost.
“It is a national charge and we have to charge it. I have spoken to the chamber about this, and we should look at doing something with them in the long term to help alleviate big water bills. I propose we have an information evening. If we are not using as much water we are not treating as much water, so it would have knock-on benefits,” he suggested.
County manager Dan McLoughlin said Cllr Troy was “spot on” in his observation. “I’m not sure if people are in denial or unaware. I have no problem putting in place the resources with or through the chamber, and finding a way to package this to make it more accessible. It is in everyone’s interest to decrease water consumption.”
Cllr Frank McDermott also expressed concern about the lack of income from water and wastewater charges. He said several water meters had not been read since the early months of 2010, with the result that many users were still receiving estimated bills.
However he was assured that while the council did not have a meter reader for a while, a reader is now in place.