THE INTRODUCTION of water charges is the first step on a pathway towards privatisation and cut-offs for non-payment, activists from the US city of Detroit have warned.
The Detroit Water Brigade provides emergency relief to families who have seen their water shut off by authorities in the bankrupt Michigan city.
Four members of the group have travelled to Dublin to join the Right2Water protest planned for Wednesday.
Brigade member and mother of five Makita Taylor said the authorities in Detroit have cut off her water supply three times.
"Imagine having to go to your children and say, 'We don't have any water today'. The very first emotion is going to be depression," she said.
"You are going to be very sad, very angry and very scared and you have to push past all of that to make sure you can find some water for that night."
Last month Taoiseach Enda Kenny vowed that Irish Water will never be privatised, saying the Government will introduce legislation to that effect.
Another US campaigner, Justin Wedes, said we have to be "very scrutinous" about how the water system is financed.
"The path that Ireland is on, Detroit is much further down and it is strewn with broken promises," he said.
"You cannot be confident that in the future they wont bring in water shut-offs and other sanctions if you continue on this path.
"It is a path that leads to commodification and privatisation of water and misery for many, many families and we are here to say reverse course now before it is too late.
"We know from personal experience. We have had tens of thousands of families shut off this year alone."
Right2Water spokesman Brendan Ogle said he will be happy if 30,000 people turn up to the protest on Wednesday, even if some of his colleagues are predicting much greater numbers.
"Tens of thousands of people will turn out in the middle of the day, in the middle of the week, in the middle of winter in a country of four million people to demonstrate that water is a human right. I think the Government will get another wake-up call on the day," he said.
He added that he has "absolutely no doubt" that the demonstration will be carried out in the "right spirit of peaceful protest".
"Anger is not a policy and anger is not a strategy and if there are any small number of people out there who do not believe they can contain their anger, they have no place at the protest," he said.