Press Release: Environmental organisations deeply concerned at water charges debate

Environmental organisations are deeply concerned at the absence of a set charge for excessive water use in the pending report on the Future Funding of Domestic Water Services.
The Environmental Pillar also believes that the Oireachtas Committee’s proposal for penalties for excessive water use will do next to nothing to curb wastage. The committee has outlined plans to only impose penalties on those who use 70 per cent above average consumption levels.
The Pillar – a coalition of 26 national environmental organisations – sent a submission to the Joint Committee in January 2017 outlining support for a Polluter Pays Principle based directly on the amount of water used and waste services provided.
The Pillar believe that this system will achieve the two-pronged result of reducing water consumption, while also generating much needed revenue for the upgrading of Ireland’s water and sewerage treatment systems, and to repair leaky distribution pipes.
The Pillar is sensitive to the needs of households facing hardship and believes that accommodations can, and should be, made to those that are unable to pay.
We support the model drawn up by the independent Irish think-tank TASC[i] to provide water credits in order to offset charges for households experiencing deprivation and/or those with special needs.
TASC also calls for the establishment of a progressive water usage rate to increase the per cubic meter rate as consumption rises.
The Pillar supports this structure as a better system to award reduced consumption, penalise higher consumption, and generate income and to assist those households that find it difficult to pay for their water.
With the Expert Commission report outlining an investment target of €5.5 billion[ii] up to 2021 to bring water services to an acceptable level, the Pillar is concerned as to where this funding will come from if charges are completely scrapped.
Mindy O’Brien, spokesperson for the Environmental Pillar said:
“Ireland is facing an uncertain future in respect to its antiquated and dilapidated water services infrastructure.
“Much of our water and wastewater infrastructure dates back to the Victorian age with many aging and leaky water and sewerage pipes in addition to many of our inadequate drinking water and waste water treatment plants.
“This legacy leaves many areas subject to boil notice orders and larger urban areas facing periodic shortages. On the wastewater treatment side, there are many areas still discharging raw sewerage, adversely affecting the quality of our rivers, lakes and coastal waters.
“With the excessive use allowance set so high, there will be no incentive for the average user to reduce their consumption of water. We need a system which encourages the average user to reduce their consumption where they can.
“We hope that when the Committee reconvenes they will reopen discussion on setting a lower excessive use rate to be included in the final report, and on how that will be monitored and enforced.”
Media Contact  
Mindy O’Brien
Environmental Pillar Spokesperson
087 289 3942
Mindy O’Brien is also the Coordinator of VOICE, an Irish environmental charity that empowers individuals and local communities to take positive action to conserve our natural resources.
 Notes for Editor:
Click here to see the submission sent to the Oireachtas Committee on the Future Funding of Domestic Water Services
Click here to see the Environmental Pillar’s Water Services Policy.  
About the Environmental Pillar
The Environmental Pillar is a national social partner, comprising 26 national environmental organisations.  It works to promote the protection and enhancement of the environment, together with the creation of a viable economy and a just society, without compromising the viability of the planet on which we live for current and future generations of all species and ecosystems. For more information, please see our website.
Member Organisations of the Environmental Pillar
An Taisce, Bat Conservation Ireland, BirdWatch Ireland, Centre for Environmental Living and Training, Cloughjordan Ecovillage, CoastWatch, Coomhola Salmon Trust, ECO-UNESCO, FEASTA, Forest Friends, Friends of the Earth, Global Action Plan, Gluaiseacht, Good Energies Alliance, Green Foundation Ireland, Green Economy Foundation, Irish Wildlife Trust, Hedge Laying Association of Ireland, Irish Peatland Conservation Council, Irish Seed Savers Association, Irish Whale and Dolphin Group, Native Woodland Trust, Sonairte, Sustainable Ireland Cooperative (Cultivate), The Organic Centre, VOICE, Zero Waste Alliance.
[i] TASC Policy Brief: Equitable Water Charging, 22 April 2014:
[ii] Response by Department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government to the Joint Committee on the Future Funding of Domestic Water Services, 10 January 2017: