Farm Ireland

Wednesday 24 January 2018

Meter charges would help deliver decent water supply

Joe Barry

Joe Barry

Water, water everywhere -- and not a drop to drink.

We are always awash with water, but every year we seem to run short of it. During the recent cold spell, people who had had their houses and farms flooded then found their taps ran dry because the mains supply had run low. We all know the reasons for this and principally they lie with householders leaving taps running, coupled with poorly maintained mains pipes.

But would householders leave their taps running if they had to pay for the water? Of course not, and if metering were introduced it would make people act responsibly and maybe even properly lag their pipes and attics. Most other developed countries introduced metering years ago. We did not because it was considered politically sensitive and would cost votes. What a way to run a country. Something that is clearly needed is not introduced because of self interest on the part of the political parties.

If we are to have a regular supply of clean water then metering and charges must be introduced soon. Charging for water will halt the wanton waste of this expensive commodity and, at the same time, provide badly needed money to help pay for providing it.

If we have to pay for something, we use less of it. If it is free, we waste it without any thought for the national good. It is amazing that we still provide our urban areas with endless free water. Most farmers and other rural dwellers have to provide their own supply, which is expensive to install and maintain.

I'd love to have the facility of a mains water supply and would be happy to pay for it, for I have spent thousands over the years, installing and maintaining a supply for home and farm. Here in Meath, most wells are from 100-200ft deep. It costs around €3,000 to drill a 150ft well and line it. A submersible pump and accompanying plumbing costs a further €2,000 and the installation of a water softening system, to remove iron and deal with any coliforms that are present in our groundwater, will cost a further €2,500. The salt for the softener costs around €200 a year. Add on another €1,000 for a reverse osmosis unit to provide drinkable water in the kitchen and you have a grand total of €8,500 before you turn on a tap. I have spent this and more plus a further €3,000 on installing a proper sewage system. These are the kind of costs that many rural home owners are facing, along with expense of maintainance

So you can understand why I, and others like me, have little sympathy for people who don't want to pay for water or for the politicians who haven't the guts to bring in charges. Nor have I sympathy for the people who whinge about nitrates directives and rules regarding the proper means of slurry spreading. If we pollute the ground water in our area, all our neighbours suffer and currently much of the groundwater in Ireland contains coliforms.

County councils are also to blame, and frequently raw sewage is released into rivers because of the inadequacy of their treatment plants. If they had an income from water charges perhaps they could end this appalling health hazard and help keep our rivers and coasts clean. Right now, some counties lose up to 50pc of their expensively treated water due to leaking pipes in their systems.

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Many homes and schools are empty over Christmas. We often have sub-zero temperatures at that time of year, so why are school principals and others so lax in shutting off the supply before closing for Christmas?

If everyone had to pay for the water they wasted they wouldn't be long about taking proper precautions. Farmers currently get around 27c/l for milk, which is about a quarter the price of bottled water. Milk used to be delivered to our doors in reusable bottles. Now we have to drive to the shops to buy it.

Water used to be freely available in every locality from communal, hand-operated pumps, which were lagged each winter by the county councils. Now we just have to do without. This is supposed to be progress, but it is just plain stupidity.

Irish Independent