massive disparity in nation's water bills hard to swallow
Farmers in some areas footing charges four times higher than counterparts as rural leaks send rates soaring
A survey by the Farming Independent shows a huge variation in water rates between county councils, with prices varying by more than 70pc across the country and standing charges differing by a massive 400pc.
The best-value water is supplied by Kildare County Council, which charges users 82c/m3. The next cheapest water is in Fingal and Louth at a cost of 90c/m3 (see table 1, right).
At the other end of the scale are counties Meath and Wicklow, which are charging over 70pc more than their mutual neighbour Kildare. At €1.42/m3, Meath is the most expensive in the country, but Wicklow and Donegal are hot on their heels with rates of €1.41/m3 and €1.35/m3 respectively.
The disparity in standing charges is even more marked between the local authorities. The €200 annual charge imposed by Limerick is exactly four times that of Monaghan, which also happens to have lower usage charges. Average standing charges nationally were closer to €105 a year.
The gradual increase in water charges has left farmers still dependent on mains supplies with serious charges to cover on an annual basis.
A modest-sized beef farmer with 75 livestock units or 50 cows in Meath will be facing a bill of more than €2,200 for his water this year. This is even before an additional standing charge of €93 has been paid.
Dairy farmers are in an even worse situation with a 60-cow farmer paying nearly €4,000 a year on average (see table 2, right). In this enterprise, with the higher daily demand for water, location becomes crucial with the same sized farmer saving more than €2,000 a year depending on what local authority he buys his water from. Sheep farmers in the traditional sheep farming counties of Wicklow and Donegal don't get away lightly either, with water usage and standing charges coming to more than €500 a year.
Despite combined water charges for 'water in' and 'water out' decreasing across the country over the past 12 months, two county councils decided to raise their prices.