Tuesday, 19th June 2018
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We should be paying for water

The water restrictions that have been in place in the Greater Dublin Area and surrounding counties in the aftermath of the double-whammy of Storm Emma and The Beast from the East came as no surprise to me, and although they mean hassle and hardship I’m fully behind the authorities on this one. Back in 2010, the last time the area had significant snow, there were widespread water restrictions after the event. The thaw exposed all the pipes that had burst when the water in them had frozen days before, and people left taps running on the coldest nights to try to stop their own lines freezing.

All this is understandable, but a modern city can’t cope with such massive fluctuations in demand. It has been reported that there was a 10% increase in demand as the thaw set in.

For a city used to balancing supply and demand to within a couple of percent, this was too much of a shock to the system, and it will take weeks to restore equilibrium. We need to row in behind the authorities and do our bit to conserve water while they build supply back up. Water is a precious commodity and we are lucky to live in a country with a plentiful supply, but we shouldn’t confuse this with thinking that we have a divine right to an uninterrupted supply.

I was an advocate of water charges a few years back. I wasn’t an advocate of Irish Water, a flawed entity that sought to commodify water in the best traditions of Thatcherism. No, I was an advocate of the concept of us having to pay a nominal, affordable amount for our water in order to instil in us as a society a responsible attitude towards water usage. If you are to believe the forecasts, then the Greater Dublin Area and surrounding counties are going to grow significantly in terms of population as we go forward, with the bulk of new investment and employment in the country located in these areas.

In order to make this work then affordable housing needs to be provided, so that people can actually afford to take up the jobs on offer. That’s a challenge for the government. Another challenge for them is the water situation in Dublin. It needs investment in the infrastructure, a lot of which dates back to Victorian times. It needs investment in weather-proofing it, as events like The Beast from the East become more commonplace due to the collapse of the polar vortex and global warming. Now is the time to carry out this investment. With the memory of the last couple of weeks fresh in the minds of people, the government have the best chance of getting support for a long-term, responsible strategy on water supply and usage.

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