Planned protest against water charges

Rallies against the British government’s reform of water services in Northern Ireland are to take place in Belfast and Derry on February 12, giving the people their chance to publicly voice their opposition to the planned reforms, which will make Joe Public pay for the decades of underinvestment in water infrastructure and will see the average household facing an annual charge of £115 (€166) from April 2006, rising to an average of £340 (€490) in 2008.

Tom Gillen from the Water Coalition, which represents trade unions, community and voluntary groups, said the people objected to an “unfair system”.

Part of the water reforms will see the Northern Ireland Water Council, which has been providing advice to Government departments on water-related issues for over 30 years, axed.

Its report finds that domestic charges are not the only way to fund the water reform necessary.

With 70% of privatised water worldwide in the hands of just 2 companies, Vivendi and Suez, can the people of Northern really expect that any impending privatisation would not result in water being treated as a commodity rather than an essential part of human health?

If Sao Paolo and other large metropoles can run an efficient and effective publicly owned water supply, why can’t Northern Ireland?

  • willowfield

    Why the reference to “the British government”?

    What other government would have the authority to reform water services in NI?

  • DavidS

    Tom Gillen’s comments strike me as barely coherent:

    “I don’t mind paying for water if I am not paying for the infrastructure, let the government pay for the infrastructure.

    “Let us direct that part of our rates which was set aside to support the water service and sewage services and then let us see what else we need which is a just and equitable payment for the services.”

    And, George Burns, we can be sure that one way or another “Joe Public” will end up paying for “decades of underinvestment in water infrastructure”. The only question is if the public pays through taxes or water bills.

    For me, the real scandal is the seeming refusal to use water meters – surely the best way of ensuring efficient use of water.

  • George

    Davids,
    at the time of privatisation in England and Wales, the government paid 8 billion into the water service to make it more attractive to buy.

    I accept that that is taxpayers’ money too but this time around it will be taken straight from the Northern Ireland users. The difference is seen in the large bills.

    As for metering, the cost of fixing the water infrastructure will not be affected by the amount of water used so you will still be left with the same bill. Metering will save water, it won’t save much money. I’m all for metering in the long run.

    There is approximately 37% leakage (some say much, much higher) of treated water from Northern Ireland’s infrastructure compared with 22% in England and Wales and 36% in Scotland. The leakage rate is comparable to Eastern European countries rather than Western European countries where leakage rates are as low as 9%.

    You have to build and pay for the infrastructure before you can introduce metering.

  • George

    Also on metering from the Northern Ireland General Consumer Council

    Disadvantages

    – Water used accounts for just 27% of the total cost of supplying water

    – May create affordability problems for low-income families. Larger households [larger family households are the least likely to have a net income of over £20,000 per year (Scottish Executive, 1999)] and consumers requiring large volumes of water for health reasons

    – The average cost of a meter is understood to be approximately £200. This would have to be met from public expenditure or recovered through charges to consumers

    – Money may be better spent renewing the existing infrastructure

    – Voluntary metering is the most expensive form of demand management with disappointing reductions in water use

    – Meters have to be read and bills issued at a cost

    – Current high levels of water leakage would undermine water savings accrued

    – It is almost twice as expensive to install meters as it is to provide an equivalent amount of water to that saved by metering

  • The Devil

    Anyone working with or for the Water Rats should be viewed as DRUG dealers… and dealt with accordingly