'We've paid all our lives': Farmers overwhelmingly back water charges new poll shows

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Ciaran Moran & Sarah Hegarty

Farmers' views are increasingly at odds with developments on water charging as they overwhelmingly believe that everyone should have to pay for water.

An exclusive survey of over 1,000 farmers comes following months of debates in Leinster house on the issue, leading finally to a deal between Fine Gael and Fianna Fail on the issue that should see 92pc of households pay nothing for water.

Of the respondents, 78pc said that everybody should pay for water, while 20pc said that people should not have to pay for water and 2pc were undecided.

Regionally, 84pc of farmers in the South said that everyone should have to pay for water compared to 74pc in the rest of the country.

Politically, 85pc of those who voted for Fine Gael said everyone should pay for water, while 72pc of Fianna Fail supporters agreed everyone should pay for water.

However, sentiment around water charges was very strong. “We’re paying all our lives. It’s like putting petrol in a car,” said one farmer who supported water charges. 

However, another said: “Water comes from God, so we should not have to pay for it” and another agreed: “It falls from the sky, so it should be free.”

Nationally, last year, almost two-thirds of voters said they favoured the complete removal of water charges.

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Younger people (18-34) are more inclined to oppose water charges, with 49pc saying everyone should not have to pay for water, but in the oldest age bracket (65+) only 14pc are opposed to water charges.

Many farmers have, traditionally, paid for water due to the need to drill wells and run pumps on their farm at their own cost, while many others have been part of a group water scheme, which they may have paid for.  There are approximately 1,500 group water schemes in Ireland and 17pc of the population’s water is supplied by private wells

Farmers are heavy water users, supplying cattle with pumped water and using water to clean milking parlours etc.

The agriculture sector is classified as a non-domestic user of water and is subject to a volumetric charge for the water used and a standing charge for each meter and water charges imposed vary by 70pc between local authorities, with a 400pc variation between the highest and lowest standing charge.

Online Editors

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