Watering down the quality of life

MARIA HERLIHY

Published 09/08/2014 | 00:00

IN the dark day of 1970s and 80s Ireland, it was a case of turf, timber blocks and coal being hauled indoors, primarily on Saturday's, to crank up enough heat in a range to run a bath.

The bath would, in turn, be used by up to eight children - depending on the household number.

The little nippers were dipped according to their height and age. It was usually a rough enough soak in the somewhat murky water when it was the youngest sibling's turn.

The only saving grace were that some kettles of water of almost molten lava temperature was used to bring the water level back up to where it had firstly began. No matter what way you looked at it, the amount of work put into a weekly bath resembled the time people lived in. It was almost a pre-requisite that it had to be hard work all the way.

Fastforward to 21st century Ireland, where a lot of homes, particularly new builds, have every sort of a device to enable the home have lashings of hot water 24/7.

The undiluted joy of hopping in and out of showers, baths and jacuzzis may now be well watered well down as parents will have to fork out considerable amounts of cash for the privilege, according to the CER (Commission for Energy Regulations) plans which were unveiled last week and brought watery tears to many parents.

The regulator's plan which is open to public consultation states that

* There will be an "assessed" charge in place until at least six months after meters are installed, fixed at €176 for the first adult and €102 for each adult after that.

* This will change to consumption based charges of €4.88 per 1,000 litres.

* If there is a leak, the charge will be capped until it is fixed. If you cannot drink the water, the charge for drinking water is reduced by 50%, or 100% if the problem exists longer than three months.

* There will be an €80 charge for owners of holiday homes.

* If there are leaks in a household after Irish Water has installed a meter, the charge will be capped at the assessment charge until the leak is fixed.

* Customers with certain medical conditions that require water consumption will have their bills capped at €176.

* The charge for water will be halved if only one service is used - if you have a septic tank or private well, you will only pay for one service.

* Irish Water will have to pay customers €10 if it fails to provide a high quality service, such as neglecting to answer complaints promptly.

There has been a lot of anger at the size of the proposed bills (two adults and two adult children water bill could be as high as €500 per year). A household with two adults and no children are set to fork out €278 which is €40 more than the Government said the average family would pay when it released its estimates before the local and European elections four months ago.

Indeed, the water allowance for children has also been slashed by the water regulator. Children will be allowed one free shower and one toilet flush per day. The Government previously said up to 28,000 litres a year per child would be allowed - but this is set to be reduced to 21,000 litres.

It's also worth pointing out that more than 300,000 households have three or more adults living in them, many of which would include adult children who are beginning their careers or attending colleges, which will in turn greatly increase water bills.

For many householders, a primary argument is that their water has never been of a fit quality for consumption or that they frequently suffer from low pressure.

However, what is also galling is that spending on consultants, contractors and legal advice by Irish Water has risen to €65 million. So far, it has spent €15 million on consultants this year, on top of €50 million last year. All of this is of little comfort to Irish families - who are after all paying for it.

Corkman

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