Water Committee descending into farce - Eoin Ó Broin TD
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Water Eoin Ó Broin TD has said the Oireachtas Water Committee looks set to ‘descend into farce today’ as speculation mounts that members will seek an extension of time to consider the issue of issuing fines for wasteful domestic use.
Deputy Ó Broin said:
“There is mounting speculation that some members of the Oireachtas Water Committee will today seek an extension of time from the Minister to allow the Committee to consider the issue of fining people for wasting water.
“The debate about the so called wilful waste of domestic water is a complete red herring. There is no evidence to support the idea that domestic water wastage is an issue of concern. Figures from Irish Water confirm that we have one of the lowest levels of domestic water usage in the OECD. The utility has also confirmed that in cases where household water usage is above average that this is often the result of either larger family size or specific medical needs or indeed leaks in the pipes which can be detected by district meters.
“Fine Gael wants to spend hundreds of millions of euros on a problem that appears not to exist. Even if there is some domestic water wastage it does not warrant the level of investment proposed by the Government. There is no logic in spending up to three hundred million euros completing the domestic metering programme, and tens of millions annually on a billing and compliance regime for what would be a very small revenue stream and even smaller level of water conservation.
“Fianna Fáil’s proposal to amend the 2007 Water Services Act is also a distraction. The idea that we are even talking about jail sentences and thousands of euros of fines for a problem that does not exist, shows you just how surreal the water debate has become.
“Given that successive Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and Labour Ministers have presided over a water system, in which 47% of all treated water is wasted and 40% of waste water treatment plants are pumping raw sewage into our rivers and seas, maybe we should introduce legislation to fine and jail them for their incompetence and negligence.
“This weeks committee meetings have the potential to defend into farce if it is agreed to seek additional time from the Minister to consider these non issues.
“The committee has spent nine weeks listening to experts on all the issues involved in the water debate including funding, conservation, group water schemes, refunds and EU legal obligations. We don't need any more time. We need to start making decisions.
“Any delay in concluding the work of the committee will require the support of Fianna Fáil. If they agree to such a request it is a clear sign that they are prepared to do a back room deal with Fine Gael in clear breach of their election manifesto commitments.
“It is time to put the issue of domestic water charges to an end. The committee must conclude our work this week and hand the matter over to the Dáil to make a final decision.”