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Battle to control our water supply

THE plum job of running the new Irish water authority has pitched the country's semi-State companies against each other.

Bord Gais, Bord Na Mona, the National Roads Authority (NRA) and the ESB are all in with a shout of taking charge of the new body.

Both Bord Gais and Bord na Mona have revealed their interest in the job, with the former saying it is better placed to implement the water strategy.

While they have not officially declared an interest, the NRA and the ESB are in discussions with the Government about running the new company.

The company will be charged with rolling out water meters to more than one million homes from early 2012.

It will also have to put in place a system for water charges once they are introduced.

While Bord Gais said it would have "the edge" as it has already built an energy infrastructure throughout the country, Bord Na Mona has disagreed.

"We're a match for any of the other companies interested. We're very diverse, and up for the challenge," Bord Na Mona's Colm O'Gogain said in a weekend interview.

The ESB is also understood to be interested in running the company.

The Government hired Price Waterhouse Coopers and lawyers McCann FitzGerald to carry out the consultation process.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny's ministers have committed themselves to not imposing water charges until meters have been installed in every household.

Installation will initially cost €500m.

Minister of State for the Environment Fergus O'Dowd said recently that the new authority, Irish Water, will have to be established first.

He hoped the legislation would be ready before the end of this year.

The organisation will take over supply and maintenance of water from the 34 local authorities.

Some 1,800 people are to be employed for up to three years installing the meters.

"There are difficulties in certain areas and with certain housing types. It can be very expensive to install meters where people are living in blocks of apartments," Mr O'Dowd said in the Dail.

He added the National Pension Reserve Fund agreed to fund the meters.

"We can pay back the money over 10, 15 or 20 years, with the total figure as high as €1bn on an initial cost of €500m," Mr O'Dowd said.

"The whole idea in metering is to conserve water," he added.