Independent Donegal Deputy Thomas Pringle told the Dáil that the Government is significantly underestimating the cost of introducing water charges and expressed concern that creating a single utility will increase a risk to services.
“If we do establish a single utility there are risks involved,” he said. “We will lose local knowledge in terms of how staff can respond to emergencies. We will lose the local workforce and the ability to react quickly. This was shown starkly a few years ago during the severe winters. In County Donegal, staff were out every day dealing with issues and resolving problems right away.”
“Across the Border in the Six Counties water services collapsed because a decision was taken to establish a single entity to look after them,” he said. “They took away the local knowledge and workforce and centralised the service. It turned out in the North that they could not respond to emergency situations when a crisis occurred. I fear that under the aegis of Irish Water that level of response will be taken away from local services. The management will be too distant from what is happening locally.”
Deputy Pringle said the Government is underestimating the cost, which will be significantly more. Over the last six or seven years, Donegal County Council had rolled out a non-domestic water metering programme. The council borrowed €9.7 million to install 11,000 meters across the county. On a pro rata basis, it meant that the cost to the State could be anything up to €1.7 billion for the roll-out of water metering across the country.
“That money will be raised by a loan through Irish Water and whether it is from the National Pensions Reserve Fund or elsewhere, it will have to be repaid. In County Donegal, commercial water charges are repaid through a standing charge. Every metered property has a standing charge and the entire amount goes back in loan repayments,” said the Deputy.