Introduction of Household Water Charges: Are they Fair?

Introduction of Household Water Charges: Are they Fair?

Introduction of Household Water Charges: Are they Fair?Experts will address a conference in Dublin today to make a case for not one but a range of environmental taxes (as if we didn’t have enough already) as a way of reducing our Budget deficit. An Irish audience will hear today how water metering makes not only environmental sense but economic sense, claiming that billions of euro could be saved each year if householders were made to pay for water usage.

While these are both valid arguments and Ireland remains one of very few countries who does not have domestic water charges introducing such as tax at this time could be crippling to many households. Countless homeowners currently struggle to meet their mortgage repayments while frightening numbers are unable to pay their Electricity bills.

Not only that but Irelands water network is in bad need of repair, with leaks, shortages and contamination not unheard of in many areas around the country. Commenting on the water crisis last winter one TD said, “This was entirely predictable given the shambolic state of the country’s water network and the Government’s failure to fix it, especially when 43% of the supply was already leaking into the ground”.

Have Your Say

  • Is the introduction of Water Metering fair?
  • Water Metering might make economic and environmental sense; but at what cost to the taxpayer?
  • Why should we pay for a service we don’t receive?
There are 36 comments for this article
  1. Alan Treacy at 5:41 pm

    From talking to people, nobody I know has a problem paying for water that they personally use. Polluter pays system. What riles people is paying a flat rate for water that is being lost in leaks.

    The problems local authorities and councils are having is that they can’t find leaks in plastic PVC piping with their older equipment which is more suited to metal pipes. We have started using a new hydrophone system from Canada which is having great results on plastic. A private company called Echologics developed the product in partnership with the National Research Council of Canada. This flagship product was developed to work on PVC pipes in particular, because in the past, correlators have had difficulty locating leaks in PVC. Irish Councils are doing their best with the equipment they have.

    Also more district meters need to be installed to help the councils narrow down the location of these costly leaks. Local authorities know they have leaks but don’t know how much there are losing and where. If district metering was put into place it would help the council to repair the areas that are most cost efficient to repair. Galway city for example have started to put a program in place to set up district metering areas.

  2. John at 4:31 pm

    Introduction of Household Water Charges: Are they Fair?

    No, because we already pay for our water through our taxes, so any extra charge is double taxation or double billing.

    Will such water charges see increased investment in the water infrastructure and improvements in water quality ? No, the money raised won’t be ringfenced and will be grabbed by the exchequer as just another tax, so the leaking pipes, seasonal water shortages and variable water quality problems will remain.

    But the government says….

    No matter what the government or its cronies say, its 100% about revenue generation, not conservation and any ‘free’ allocation will gradually be removed, while the water tax will rise and rise. Remember, motor tax was abolished, then reintroduced at a lower level and over time, it was back to its previous level and beyond. Also recall, we used to have rates which covered the upkeep of roads, the supply of water, rubbish collection and the upkeep of sewers. Now we have rubbish charges, the possibility of a water ‘tax’ and a property tax on top, while the taxes we paid to replace rates are still in place too. I wonder when they’ve finished, whether we’d have been paying less if we still had rates ?

  3. Saifuddin at 10:00 pm

    Yes we all should pay for water to improve the network and to assist the government to spend on repairs of water-leakage ( especially when 43% of the supply was already leaking into the ground”. )

    However, I agree with Roisin that “We do not want another Eircom!” and also agree with Slan that “Not the right time to do it”. It will cost a lot to the tax payer to install meters nationwide!!

  4. Paul B at 5:58 pm

    I was obliged by my local council to install water saving measures as part of a planning permission. This added considerably to the cost of the building work. I’m not aware of any others in my neighbourhood, a suburb of Dublin, not a remote country location, who have installed a water saving tank, and run-off control measures

    Having incurred this expense, why should I pay the same for water as an adjacent premises that does not use water saving measures?

    There are very few houses, all but the most recently built ones, that have water meters in place to monitor usage.

    So if water charges are to be on a pay-as-you-use basis, it will be a huge undertaking to install water meters in all existing houses. And it would be grossly unfair to charge for any water usage until all houses have water metres. If the ‘government’ intend to charge from the first day a metre is installed, I’m going to make sure I’m at the end of the water meter installation queue.

    If however water charges are on a flat rate, I’ll be making sure to water the grass twice a day right through the winter months, just to make sure I get value for money.

    And has anyone in the ‘government’ mentioned ‘ring-fencing’ or ‘fire-walling’, or whatever the latest buzz word is, the money to be collected for water usage?

    I haven’t heard any mention of it. So as per previous contributors, I guess it will be just another tax, most likely used to prop up the cost of cosy pensions and plush state cars for former corrupt politicians.

    One last thing, for now anyway, if a decision to install water metres is taken, watch carefully to see which friend of the FF’ers gets the lucrative contract…..

  5. Roisin at 3:05 pm

    Yes we should pay for water – we will certainly waste less if we were to pay for it. The networks will be much better. Well at least that’s what we hope. However, the timing of the introduction of water rates is the worst. The government will probably only use this money to pay for NAMA and the builders that are still swooning around the country and for whom their debts will never be paid ! If water meters are to be introduced, let’s do it right through a private company that can mange the network and have staff that actually work to repair, enhance and care for the network. Not some civil servant type of people who will only waste the monies paid. We do not want another Eircom !
    Not the right time to do it – how much will it cost the tax payer to put meters nationwide ? Slan.

  6. Liz at 12:23 pm

    I think the entire taxing system on essential services should be looked at. The problem is that the government want to start bringing in various taxes which would ultimately cripple people – no real value for what you are paying for. Take the UK for instance – you pay a poll tax for the area you live in but you get your rubbish collection included. In Western Australia for instance you pay rates – everyone has to pay them regardless of circumstances and you can clearly see what you are paying for by looking at the upkeep of parks, rubbish collection etc whereas we could end up paying individual taxes for each essential service which would be very expensive. Also businesses here in towns/cities pay water charges – what’s done with that money??? Another problem – people who live in social housing and get every benefit available – I know people in this situation and they make no effort to be environmentally friendly or conserve especially if they don’t have to pay for it…..so where is the fairness in this. In my opinion there are now two types of social welfare recipients. There are people who have big mortgages with children and lost their jobs who are genuinely living in the poverty line and there are those who have and are living in social housing and able to manage comfortably…

  7. Dave B at 9:36 am

    I presume people with their own water supplies in the country won’t have to pay and who will be picking up the tab for the “leaky” pipes. I can see some poor pensioner getting a huge bill in the door for water they didn’t use due to a leaky pipe out in the street. The government should look into increasing our exports, streamlining the government and their expenses, getting rid of the airport tax to encourage people to come to Ireland and builders to pay off their debts, not keep looking at us the whole time to rectify their mistakes. The people in charge aren’t qualified to be making decisions for us in my opinion.

  8. Ronan at 9:22 am

    Water Tax…NO.We have no mains water. Paid to have our own well drilled. Water was full of iron, lime and was very hard. Had it tested, failed on many accounts Had to get a water treatment system in. Were were luck to qualify for a small grant to help with the cost, but still pay for the electricity to run the pump, bags of salt to put in the treatment system, annual maintenance etc. So I am paying for my water!!!
    like a lot of country dwellings not on mains.

  9. pauline reid at 9:51 pm

    As long as the meters are inside the home and not outside, I would be willing to pay for the water I use if it would fix other water issues, I definitely must have a leak somewhere as outside the home the pressure is fine (according to the water board) but inside I hold the kettle for 4 minutes to fill it, not gonna pay for water I don’t receive if they use the money for repair work to the pipes that are broken everywhere it will be beneficial to all in the long run, don’t even think of using the money for other usage tho such as the poor hard done by banks – Bah!

  10. Gina at 9:00 pm

    if we must a metered water charge is fair
    annual flat fee/any way not metered is unfair

    But money should go to fixing ancient mains piping, chances of that=2, none & noner

  11. Peter O’Connor at 8:00 pm

    We have (undrinkable) water from Lismore/Cappoquin in Co Waterford and because we have a B&B we have to pay for it.
    Ironically because we harvest rainwater we pay only for our showers – our drinking water we take from a spring (limestone-water). Our household consumption is 0.6 that of the average Irish home.
    Next door is a holiday home where they don’t pay water rates Explain that one!!
    OF COURSE everyone should pay ! User pays that’s rule. Pay, then demand proper service. Withhold payment is service isn’t good.

  12. cypherdj at 7:17 pm

    Water charges, what a splendid idea. But this government is not going far enough, there should also be an air charge to go with it. There you go, now shut up and watch the x-factor like the rest of the brain dead nations around the world (dont forget to pay your TV license to enjoy the quality programming that RTE got us accustomed to).

  13. Kevin at 3:24 pm

    As a member of a group scheme, the proposed water tax wouldn’t affect me directly, but a few points did occur to me. Firstly, the government doesn’t currently supply water for free(despite the claims that it does), as the government doesn’t have its own money, it uses our money, so the current water supply is paid for by everyone(including those like myself that don’t avail of the public supply). Secondly, if the cost of supplying the water is the Real issue, then why don’t they tackle the huge waste through leakages, then they’d have to supply less and so have a lower cost. Thirdly, if as is suggested, the cost of providing this water is the Real issue, then why not stop adding fluoride to the water supply, its unnecessary and adds to the cost of the water supply. Finally, the water tax(and it is a tax since the revenue from it will go to the government and won’t be ringfenced to be used solely to improve the water infrastructure) as proposed will be introduced as a conservation measure, but if people cut their water use by say 25% and everyone gets by with their ‘free’ allocation, I think you can expect to see the introduction of some form of standing charge or the ‘free’ allocation will be cut, with the aim of ensuring that everyone pays. This measure is about making money not saving water and like the bin charges mentioned by another poster, it won’t be long before you see hefty price increases without any evidence of an improved service. Does anyone truly believe that if they introduce a water tax, that there will be less leaky pipes ?

  14. Dave B at 3:13 pm

    At the end of the day the government has made a huge mistake bailing out the banks with our money (which in the good old days of the celtic tiger the tax payer saw none of the profits) and we are picking up the tab. I can rant and rave all I want but they will get the money back someway or another and it’s us who’s paying for it. I’m thinking of buying a ferry and setting sail to somewhere less screwed than we will be here shortly. Tickets anyone??

  15. John Hines at 2:56 pm

    In England in Dorset we pay £1100 a year £92 a month for 3 bedroom house 5 people in house.If we had the choice it would be £370 cheaper on the rates system.We have very limited improvements and if the leak is on your land then you pay for the water leaking and the repairs. Sewage is worked out on 10% reduction on litres into property.
    Water is the second most expensive resource into our house and although private water companies you have no choice on who supplies you. We have to put bricks in toilets etc to try and keep costs down and baths are a thing of the past. We still have hosepipe bans etc during summer.
    If charging comes in the quality threats to flooding etc will not change. It is just Revenue raising by the state.

  16. Pol at 2:47 pm

    With 30-40% of the nations water assumed to be wasted it is clear evidence that our infrastructure needs investment to reduce waste, conserve an important resource and create a healthy and safe supply. Government cannot develop and maintain these things without taxes, but government needs to invest wisely in this repair. Yes it is more taxes but it could also lead to work opportunities for hundreds while resulting in an efficient, effective and healthy water supply. Less money on super highways and more on water infrastructure please.

  17. sinead keegan at 2:15 pm

    Certainly is not fair as we do not have a shortage of water, I’d understand if we had weather like Australia where they suffer from droughts etc. just another excuse to get more tax from us, as it is we are paying too much.

  18. Jac at 2:04 pm

    We already pay enough taxes and get NO return for most of them – think Credit Card tax (we are the only country in the WORLD) and all the other stealth taxes that are in every day items. When they introduced bin charges it was just a licence to print money – it goes up every year but the benefits DON’T. Instead of charging the already heavily burdened worker how about cancelling ALL Ministerial expenses, drivers, cut their salaries by 50% etc etc etc and use that to offset the water charges!! As it is the upcoming Budget is probably going to make more redundancies so the fewer that are lucky to still have a job end up paying more – again.
    It will be just like car tax which is meant to go towards road repairs but there are more potholes than ever before.
    What next – a tax for every time the sun comes out? then double that when it rains????

  19. Don at 1:40 pm

    I think a water tax would be fair, maybe 50e per year for the house, giving X litres per household/ per person. Anything over that could be taxed per litre.
    This would encourage households to keep their water usage low.

  20. Harry at 1:27 pm

    Well I have to say congratulations to non-contriburay taxpayer funded pension and expenses eating political masters, their brainwashing Orwellian propaganda was worked.

    For those of you that think of this water tax as either “fair” or a “charge”, go read something about how propaganda works, like George Orwell’s 1984.

    @Gary, pman and Vincent B and anybody else who thinks that we don’t pay for our water, could please tell me who the kind charitable people who run the water treatment plants, lay the pipes, provide the electricity and diesel fuel to run all that equipment, FROM THE GOODNESS OF THEIR HEARTS!!!!!

    No, you won’t be able to find these charitable people, because WE PAY FOR THEM ALREADY….. We paid them with our taxes to lay the pipes to the water treatement plantrs, we have paid with our taxes them to lay pipes to our homes/estates, we pay them every month with our taxes to operate the water treatement plants, we even pay them with our taxes to maintain the equipement and fix leaks (which seems like vary bad value to me) and when these workers retire we will continue to pay them their pension with our taxes.

    The ordinary tax payer IS paying for his/her water, if a water charge is introduced then it will only be double taxation. Note also that pman calls it a “charge”, which makes me think pman may stand for “politician man” and is engaging is spreading more government propaganda. Note also that is called a charge, that is so biffo and clueless lenihan can continue to lie about Ireland being a low tax environment (lots of “charges” and “levies” though).

    You only have to look at how Fingal county council operated the bin charge, sorry bin tax, to see what will happen with a water charge, sorry water tax. Initially it was “only €3″ and we were told it’s not even the price of a pint and that “you only pay for what you throw out” and that we would be more careful of what we throw out when we had to pay for the service that used to miraculously provide it self free of charge to taxpayers. We were also told that those on low income would not have to pay it. Then they increased it to €3.50, its only a 50 cent increase, that not much, but it was a 16% increase when inflation was only 2 or 3 %. Then they increased it again so people recycled more and we threw out even less, so they increased the bin tax again, and added a fixed charge, and removed the wavier for the low paid so that now there is a fixed charge of €120 and each black bin is €8. That’s an increase of 300% since the bin tax was introduced. In the same period of time my private sector pay only rose by 6%. Expect the water tax to go the same way.

    Like motor tax the money will not be ring fenced ad used to upgrade water facilities, it will be just another general tax that will be used to provide all our ministers with their 100,000+ merc’s and perks. Anyone got a company car, do you pay BIK (benefit in kind) tax on it? Do you think bertie pays BIK on his merc and 3 garda drivers, he does in his ar*e, instead he claims his €51 daily allowance “expenses” to be driven to the dail.

    So that is why the water tax needs to be brought in, to pay for the merc’s and the perks and to pay the multi-billionare bond holdes of anglo, natiowide etc. Biffo and cluless seem determined to tax us back to the eighties where all PAYE tax revenue was used to service the interest the nation debt, when PAYE workers paid 90% of the tax in the country. And I don’t mean eighties Ireland, we will soon have same level of service as eighties Romania!!!!

    The ordinary tax-payer has already paid for his/her water, this water tax is just double taxation that is going to affect the lowest paid the most and that is why it is not fair.

  21. Eamon McDonagh at 12:55 pm

    A mantra of the current government is that ‘We’re the only country in Europe that doesn’t have water charges/ property tax …’. We’re also the only country in Europe that doesn’t have direct access to ski slopes. I think we should be compensated for this disadvantage!
    In accord with other contributors, I would have no objection in principle to water charges if I were confident that the authorities were not the biggest water wasters through their negligence.

  22. Dom Noone at 12:52 pm

    We already pay tax and to impose a water charge is screwing us twice for the same thing . The revenues from the tax take go to the DOEHLG and the local authorities who are supposed to provide a proper water supply to all of us .

  23. Kevin Murray at 12:51 pm

    Is the introduction of water metering fair? Yes.

    One property in three does not get a public water service. The owners of those properties have to pay for their own water service from a private well or via a Group Scheme. They also contribute to the water services enjoyed by the rest of the country through their taxes. That is not fair.

    What cost to the taxpayer?

    It will cost between €0.5bn and €1.0bn to install water meters. However, it will save the state the cost of producing drinking water to the value of about €90m per annum. Just €15m of that is in the impact on consumer’s behaviour and a further €75m per annum is in capturing hidden leaks in customers’ properties. Therefore, it will pay for itself within 10 years, just in water saved. That is all additional to the water charges paid by customers for the water actually delivered.

    Why should we pay for a service we don’t receive?

    Many of those in rural areas not served by a public water supply would argue that those in urban areas do not appreciate the service they receive; and will not appreciate it until they are paying for it. Too many people complain about the few times that there is a disruption in supply or quality, without recognising that by and large we have a very reliable water service. A lot of people put in a lot of effort to bring clean water to 1.2m homes.

  24. C Mc Phillips at 12:46 pm

    I would say no to water charges. Ireland can’t manage as it is without introducing another bill. The government are a disgrace & if i could sell my house I WOULD BE GONE. SHOOT THE GOVENMENT!!!

  25. Colm McHugh at 12:43 pm

    Couldn’t agree with Gary any more. Paying water rates is common practice in practically every developed country in the world. Water is a resource, and just like gas or electricity it needs treatment and processing. Rates needn’t be exorbitant, when I lived in the US it was about $40 per household per two months. If the rate could be adjusted to the amount consumed, that would be fair.

  26. Betty at 12:39 pm

    I understand that you have to appreciate the value of clean water. But the average Joe is literally being bled dry by the government. Everyone is slowly going into deeper debt and we cannot sustain any more cuts to wages or increased taxes. Especially as it seems to me the cost of living is not going down. Four and a half million people cannot make up the budget deficit. Spending needs to be looked at under a microscope and see where areas of duplication and wastage occur.

  27. Anthony Nagle at 12:37 pm

    Isn’t it about time that the government stopped leaking money like water, clean up their own house instead of ignoring the biggest tax of all on tax payers which is the government. If the government was run efficiently and without corruption by people who are not in it to better themselves or their friends then Ireland would be a much better place. Taxing water in Ireland of all places is disgraceful. Who would benefit ? certainly not the country or it’s people at large. I could however think of a number of companies and government members that might do quite well from it.

  28. Vincent B at 12:36 pm

    It’s crazy that people can continue to water their gardens and wash cars with treated water without thinking about the costs behind this valuable resource. A metering system must be brought in with a fair and reasonable free allowance per household. It costs money to provide this treated water and we must start dealing with it like any other utility such as gas or electricity.

  29. pman at 12:34 pm

    In essence I agree with ” a water charge”! Why not have a mandatory annual charge of, lets say €50 per annum per average household (2adults/2children) and base other charges the amount of people registered as living at an address on the electoral register or the census! Chances are these charges if they are applied wil be totally unrealistic and basically will be another burden on the already straind finances of the paye worker, which I am. I pay my bills on time, I pay my taxes, I’ve had my wages cut by over €5000 in the past 1.5 years. As I said I agree with this charge in essence but I just don’t want myself and the general hardworking public to be subjected to another rip off half arsed government implemtation!

  30. sinead at 12:34 pm

    i think more taxes or rates are an absolute disgrace. if the only way of “recovering” is taxing the people to the hilt, and adding another payment per month or year to already heavily burdened household spending, then we are in severe trouble. people cannot reach on the payments they already have, and while household outgoings are going up, and wages are stagnant or going downwards!!! There will be a lot of delolate people in this country very very soon!!! its becoming a case of whatever moves tax it – or whatever people cant do without tax it… its becoming a total SHAM country!!! maybe the td’s in our Know-it-all government could look at their own expense acounts, salaries, pension (multiple or otherwise) or ministerial cars/drivers/ clothes/makeup/hair allowances, travel allowances, dail bar bills, foreign travel and hotel expenses ( that one is for our well travelled expensive taste president who thinks she has the right to “no comment” when asked about her hotel room in rome!!!!) and any other frivilous claims they make each and ever year since the BOOM -and right through our recessionary times also… it might be an idea to introduce a slight if not fair and “about time” tax on any of our multi millionaire entertainers/ artists/ singers, who enjoy the benefits of making thousands if not millions each year while all the time livin in our sinking taxed to the hilt lovely isle! just a suggestion….or two… that will fall of the deaf ears of people in power! oh to have selective deafness in times of financial difficulty. – ” sorry, what , sorry mr bank manager, i cant seem to hear what your saying…”

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  32. Disillusioned at 12:33 pm

    We will of course end up paying for water but not for environmental reasons but purely as another tax. We will be paying for water we are not even using if the 43% leakage figure you quote in your piece are correct and they will not use €1 to improve the water system, it will go to pay our political master’s salaries, pensions, expenses and perks which not if the country was down to it’s last Euro would they give up.

  33. John Reilly at 12:33 pm

    Don’t mind tax on water as to much waste with water in Ireland. Property tax is what I have a big problem with, after buying a house in 2008 and paying a hefty Stamp Duty tax on it!

  34. Jason O’Connor at 12:27 pm

    I live in Athy and the water is so full of limescale it is undrinkable, I already pay to buy drinking water from supermarkets so unless the relevant authorities filter or upgrade the quality of the water I will not pay any tax and I will argue this throught the courts if I have to! There is absolutely no way I will pay monies for an unsatisfactory service – this is a basic principle in all walks of society.

  35. S Sheridan at 12:25 pm

    The current condition of the water system, with all the extremely wasteful leaks is a disgrace. The government should fix these first and then assess what the real usage level is, and base a fair charging system on this.

    I have no objection to paying a fair amount for water, provided its not based on a shambolic system badly in need of repair, and as long as its METERED. We cannot ask those who take care not to waste water to pay more to subsidise those who do.

  36. Gary at 11:43 am

    some may argue that the reason why our water network is so bad is becuase we don’t pay for it. the old adage “you get what you pay for” springs to mind.

    Introdcution of tax on water would theoritically result in a funds available to upgrade/maintain the water network.

    However with current state of the country this tax will likely go straight on the national debt but in thoery it makes sense to pay if you want a good service..

    we currently don’t pay – we have generally poor service!

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