Leitrim’s Councillors have expressed serious concerns over the future viability of the county’s water supply under the new State body, Irish Water with fears that some households could be left without water in a few years time.
In April this Year, Minister for Environment, Phil Hogan, announced that Irish Water would be established to oversee the delivery of water services in Ireland. He said the body would be an independent, State-owned subsidiary of Bord Gáis Eireann and indicated more details would be passed on to Local Authorities in the coming months.
However, since the announcement, there has been almost no concrete information provided to Local Authorities explaining how the transfer of substantial assets will be carried out and, more worryingly, what will happen to those on the group water schemes which make up 50% of water users in the county.
Addressing the monthly Council meeting last Monday night, Cllr Paddy O’Rourke, Chairperson of the Infrastructure SPC, said that the committee had recently held a meeting with Local Authority staff to clarify the situation.
However, he said that there seemed to be a “genuine shortage of information from the Department on this issue”. “They don’t seem to have worked out how the transfer of Group Water Schemes will happen on the ground and the information is simply not being fed down to the local authorities,” he added.
He said it appeared, in the case of Group Water Schemes, that each scheme would be metered for water usage at the bulk meter and it would then fall on those administering the scheme to apply charges to members of the scheme.
“This seems an extremely difficult prospect as they would have to judge the individual usage for each house,” he observed.
Cllr O’Rourke added that there were also serious issues with applications for the Council to takeover schemes as many required substantial refurbishment to bring them up to the base level required and he queried just how issues such as water leakages or inadequate supply would be dealt with by Irish water.
“I am very worried that two years down the road a number of people now on Group Water Schemes in the county won’t have any water supply and I think that there is real potential here for rebellion from the citizens of Co Leitrim if that does come to pass,” he warned.
Party colleague, Cllr Mary Bohan, also expressed concern at the lack of information forthcoming about Irish Water, stating that she had recent attended a conference on Water Sector Reform where even the Minister and a spokesperson from Bord Gais were unable to explain how the new water body would operate. Other councillors also expressed their dissatisfaction with the situation and Cllr Bohan said Minister Hogan should meet with Councillors to explain exactly what the changeover would entail.
Director of Services, Infrastructure, John McGuinness, admitted that the situation in Co Leitrim was difficult as the “water network has been built on the back of Group Water Schemes”.
“At this stage about 50 percent of households are directly fed from public water mains and 50 percent are fed through public water which is delivered through private water schemes,” he said.
Noting it was unclear how much money, if any would be provided for water scheme refurbishment in 2013 he said that clarity was vital to allay serious concerns about future water supply.