Thursday 1 May 2014

Water Meters (and other unpopular charges)

Road Works for a Water Meter
The Water Meters are coming! The plan is to install a meter on every domestic property in Ireland and then (gasp) to start charging people for the water. I feel a bit presumptuous posting a blog which gives my opinion of what the Irish might be thinking (Been here 5 minutes! Presumes to.... etc) but I think I can safely say that the people are not, in general happy about this. They have seen the fleets of GMC Sierra (The contractor) white vans, trailers and mini-diggers who have worked their way along the streets of the main towns (Ballaghaderreen and Castlerea) stopping at every house to erect a little fort of red barriers in which they rattle a hole down through the pavement or tarmac and install their special housings and lids which will take the meter; whole streets at a time, gangs of them in their Hi-Viz jackets

Now the locals have seen this start to spread out into the countryside. A month or so ago we had a man with a metal detector and clip board knocking on doors to see did the owner know where his stop cock was. For all I know he may have had dowsing rods too. Many water pipes have long since been buried under tarmac or paving. A few days ago we started to get yellow painted numbers and arrows on the tarmac and GMC Sierra vans whizzing up and down and now we have had the mini diggers and red barriers. Our house has so far seen none of this but our water installation is so new (2012) that the Water Board guys presumably KNEW meters were coming and did not bury ours. It is sitting there in full view among the verge grass with its housing and its 'Uisce' (Irish for Water) capping.

Meter cover. Uisce is Irish for 'Water'.
People are not, as I said, happy about this and the new charges for several good and understandable reasons. First these charges are new, water has been free to draw 'for ever' so people worry about how much the water will cost and whether they will be able to afford it. We had to pay the €1600 charge for our "new supply" as a cheque to Roscommon County Council plus a €300 in cash to the shiny-shoe'd 'Water Caretaker' who showed up on install day in his silver 4 by 4 (Make of that one what you will!). We were reasonably happy to do so because we knew there would be no rates there-after. Ah well.

There is also a certain cynicism that these charges are because the Central Government has managed to 'crash' the economy in league with the fat cat bankers and now needs this money and these 'Austerity Measures' to shore up the financial holes. Not only will the money, extracted locally not get used locally (out in the West there is a suspicion that it all goes to Dublin, never to be seen again) but probably won't get used to improve our water infrastructure.

On top of this there is disgust locally that great tracts of County Roscommon do not even have water fit to drink. All across Strokestown, Tulsk and across the NE of the county they are on 'boil water' notices as a result of Cryptosporidium infestation in the water (It is a single cell nasty which causes diarrhoea) or have such high doses of chlorine in the tap water to kill the 'crypto' that it is unpleasant to drink. I was told (by the metal detector guy) that this is largely down to ancient infrastructure and plant, some built in Victorian times, which was not upgraded when there was a housing boom to cope with the extra demand. I suspect that the locals handing over their new water rate money will believe in improvements when they see the  diggers start to roll into the water treatment plant, or the 'boil water' notices get lifted. Meanwhile local shops do a roaring trade selling bottled drinking water. A lot of people here actually have their own well and are off grid; even they suspect that the Government might start charging them to draw water from their own bit of aquifer. There is also a certain amount of grumbling about how the contract to do all this meter installation work was tendered for and won by the brand new company, GMC Sierra, set up especially for the purpose. The Irish have a certain healthy cynicism that back handers and sweeteners are almost certainly involved somewhere.

And then there is general discomfort with 'all these new taxes and charges which seem to come one after another'. In Ireland in 1977 a Fianna Fáil government (Jack Lynch's) swept to power promising to abolish (Domestic) Council Rates (and car tax, actually) and no-one has paid any since. Only in the last years have 'we' started to see 'Property Tax' again, and, so far, for our value of house, down in the hundred Euro a year area. In England we were used to £130 a month so we are still enjoying the 'holiday' but we can see their point. Rubbish collection here is via a separate contract with the wheelie bin company. There is no mains gas out here and, in the country lanes, no mains sewage.

Happy Days.

Meanwhile, a quick Many Happy Returns to the Pud Lady, 87 today and still going strong. She tells me she has set herself a target of 99. She'll be happy with that, she says. If the family's most recent newly-weds get a-cracking she may soon be able to cuddle her first Great Grandchild (No pressure, you guys!). Have a lovely day, Mum!

Happy Birthday

1 comment:

anne wilson said...

I believe the EU wording regarding water charge is 'Potable Water' Castlerea and surrounding areas have been on boiled water notice for three years, the average amount that people pay for bottled water in Castlerea is 500 euros a year, that 10 euros a week and they are expected to pay water charges? Boyle has been on boiled water notice even longer. It is not on, it is obtaining money by false pretences, in other words, fraud.