Local authority involvement will be key to Irish Water success
07 June 2013
The first domestic water meters will be installed next month, with a national roll-out beginning in September, the new Irish Water chief executive confirmed at the Engineers Ireland Annual Conference in Dublin.
John Tierney, in his keynote address yesterday in the Ballsbridge Hotel, said his organisation aimed to have 100,000 meters installed by year end. By the start of 2016, the goal is to have 1,050,000 households metered.
“Householders will be given two weeks’ notice of meter installation and they’ll also get a reminder a few days beforehand,” said Tierney. “There won’t be a lot of disruption – installation time will be two hours at worst.”
The semi-State body believes that the introduction of water metering in Ireland will lead to change in attitudes and behaviour when it comes to water usage. Tierney cited Denmark as an example – water consumption dropped by 12.6% between 1996 and 2007 after meters were installed in that country.
He stated that one of his priorities as the new chief of Irish Water is to persuade people of the value of water as a resource – and that water does not come cheaply. For a country used to free water and waste with no consequences, he acknowledged, this was a major learning curve.
A water regulator is yet to set the price of water and the initial price will hold for two years. Thereafter, it will be reviewed by the regulator every five years.
“Our current investment in water infrastructure is simply unacceptable,” Tierney continued. “It’s barely half of what we need to sustain a properly functioning system.” Although €328 million will be spent on water infrastructure this year, some €600 million annually is needed “to have any chance of dealing with the problems”, he added.
“Water infrastructure development is a catalyst for growth. Irish Water’s mission is not to ‘fix’ local authorities’ delivery of water, but instead to build on the infrastructure we have and develop it to safeguard the economy’s future. Close collaboration with local authorities, and with the experts therein, will be vital,” according to Tierney.
Conference delegates also learned that the Government is to introduce a ‘first-leak’ policy once water charges are introduced, whereby repairs will be carried out on private properties with an identified leak.
Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Fergus O’Dowd, told the conference that the ‘first-leak’ scheme will “increase public buy-in”. It will cover the cost of repairing pipes between the footpath and hall door, but will not cover internal leaks. O’Dowd said that the Department, along with Irish Water, was currently working out the details of how the scheme will operate.
O’Dowd said that the levels of water wastage in the country were unsustainable, with Co Roscommon experiencing wastage levels of 60%. Dublin has a wastage level of 25%.
“We need transparency in all communications with the public with regard to water charges,” he added, “and also the accountability of Irish Water to the Oireachtas…What we don’t want is a HSE on wheels.”
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