‘Water isn’t free’- issue bothers politicians north and south

Sandra Chapman
Sandra Chapman
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Just back from my end-of-year sojourn to the south of Ireland where the weather was glorious, Christmas is well and truly on the agenda and the eating-out places are absolutely amazing – from the smallest garage coffee stop to the posh places.

I do them all since I don’t expect my son to slave over a hot stove when he could be sharing a drink and conversation with me instead.

Water is a precious resource

Water is a precious resource

There not being a political bone in his body – he knows I love Irish politics – he prefers instead to hear about the family, and it being a large, diverse collection of individuals there’s lots to talk about there. Yet I couldn’t help myself. What about water charges? Were they going to introduce them across the border given that our lot have put them on the back burner for the time being – again?

He was more concerned about a newly bought tank of gas which had mysteriously sprung a leak and while he dealt with that I perused the newspapers. And I found an interesting piece in the Irish Times about a Co Limerick farmer John Bateman who said he had spent around 50,000 euros on water over the past 24 years and was adamant he didn’t want water charges imposed by the State on top of that. He dug a well in 1992 for his 180-acre farm. New water pumps which he has to purchase occasionally cost him 4,000 euro a piece, electricity to run the pump is about 600 euro a year and then there’s the 130 euro a year maintenance bill. So, understandably, he’s not that keen to have to pay over and above. I quote him: “The country is going in a funny direction…some people seem to be paying for everything. It’s hard for the likes of me. I don’t want to sound mean and nasty, but I feel once is enough to pay for water.’’

Farmer Bateman will echo the feelings of many who have their own wells but still, Taoiseach Enda Kenny says there has to be a payment for water services because “water is not free’’. And, of course he has done something similar to what our gang at Stormont has done, he says he will leave the decision on the future of water charges to a special committee after an expert commission said that most households should not pay them. It doesn’t end there. Some southerners are already paying for water, but could they get refunds if water is to be paid for out of general taxation? Are you keeping up with all this? Sounds like a political whirlpool which may not be solved until after the next election. Does all this sound familiar?

Being a rural dweller I’m surrounded by water – there’s a big dam a pleasant walk away – and of course rivers and stream which flood our neck of the woods on a regular basis. I also have a well the water in which looks clean though I’ve never sampled it. Talk of water charges doesn’t exactly frighten me because my other son is a water scientist so I know something of the astronomical cost of the research happening around the world to secure water supplies for the future. Undoubtedly we waste it pitifully and changing weather patterns will add to the problems in future. So I’m not against water charges. What I don’t like though is to see politicians fighting amongst themselves about water charges because to say no to them compromises their chances of re-election and consequently their livelihoods. All any of us wish for is a clean, regular supply of water and for that we should all pay, with special rates for the low paid and maybe the Farmer Batemans of this world.