As you might have noticed it has been pretty hot the past few weeks. All this heat is not great for our water supplies and NI Water have warned that of supply shortages and a potential hosepipe ban.
This happens most years, but it is a good reminder that we take water for granted. NI Water has been warning for years that we need to invest in our water infrastructure. There is the obvious part of the service – the water that comes out of your tap, but people forget that NI Water also take away your wastewater and this is where there all a lot of issues. As NI Water keep saying, no drains no cranes. In Belfast and other areas, the sewage system is at capacity and this means there is a limit to how many new homes and offices we can build.
Politicians know how sensitive the public is to any potential charges for water so they keep kicking the can of reform down the road, but you can only do this for so long before you get major problems.
Personally, I am in favour of water charges, for the simple fact that people only respect a resource if they are paying for it. I have neighbours that leave their hoses on for hours, it is human nature that if you are not paying for it you are less careful in how you use a resource. But I do pay for it via my rates! I hear you cry, yes I know but it is a fixed cost not per usage. If electricity was a fixed price per month the first thing I would do is stop filling the oil tank and switch to electric heaters. I really don’t understand the argument that Water is a human right. Is electricity and broadband not equally essential in the modern world? Is food not essential?
If politicians want to avoid a public backlash over Water charges at the very least they should reform the structure of NI Water to make it easier for them to borrow money for investment. I am against the privatisation of NI Water, I think it should continue to be publically owned but you could make it a not for profit company along the lines of Welsh Water. I don’t think anyone is advocating the privatisation of NI Water, changing it to a non-profit should be a straightforward change. There has never been a better time to borrow money with interests rates at historic lows.
I also think the management team at NI Water have been poor in communicating the urgency of the situation. They have also been slow at proposing potential solutions so we instead bumble on aimlessly.
Inertia is the default state in Northern Ireland, but at some point, we have to wake up and recognise that our infrastructure is in bad shape and needs to be sorted out urgently.
I help keep the good ship Slugger afloat by managing the business and techy stuff.