With the disclosure that Irish Water will spend €80 million on consultancy and outside contractor costs by the middle of next year, a number of local councillors have again argued that provision of water services should have remained with local authorities.
Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan is comingunder increasing pressure to explain the enormous cost of the service, which was initially expected to be ‘minimal’ when compared to eventual savings, according to a report from his Department. The recent revelations have seen a re-emergence of the argument that water services should never have been centralised.
Kilkenny local authorities had made significant headway in recent years in improving the county’s water services. The level of unaccounted-for water was reduced by 16% over the four-year period between 2008 and 2012, and over 4,300 leaks repaired.
Local councillors fought against the decision to remove the delivery of public water supply from local councils by creating Irish Water. Councillors and their representative organisations were told that the huge upgrading investment needed to comply with the EU Water Framework Directive could only be provided by the amalgamation of the 34 councils into a single water authority. Labour councillor Michael O’ Brien says that one of the greatest causes for concern was the loss of public control over operations. He said that councillors had been the first port of call for the householder in the event of a public health or supply issue.
“It is obvious that the issue of regulating a sustainable and safe system of public drinking water in Ireland is becoming more of a football game in the Dáil rather that an item of serious public interest,” he said.
“The shortfall in the practices established by local councils to supply quality drinking water in the required quantities was only compromised by lack of investment in the past”.
Green Party Environment spokesperson Cllr Malcolm Noonan said that the reformed local government structures were ideal to delivering a more coordinated, efficient and quality public service in water and waste water provision.
“The Green Party believes that local authorities had built up a wealth of expertise and knowledge in recent years to dramatically improve water quality and reduce leakage,” said Cllr Noonan.
“Kilkenny County Council has made significant strides in recent years with improvement in supply and monitoring.”