Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Irish Water will become a subsidiary of Bord Gáis

The Government announced today that the new State water authority Irish Water will become a subsidiary of Bord Gáis (The State owned Irish Gas Company). The formation of a new State Water Authority is to be welcomed as it will for the first time facilitate the provision of water, sewerage and wastewater to be operated holistically. It may also allow Irish Consumers, for the first time, to have the same rights as water consumers in other countries and a proper route for the handling of complaints about water quality, something that is currently lacking in Ireland. On the whole the County Councils and Local Authorities have done an amazing job over the years and to some extent it is sad to see this come to an end. However, the senior management in County Councils didn’t rise to the challenge and have now lost one of their key roles.

In some areas local authorities have failed to react to the real needs of consumers and the poor provision in some areas, often linked with poor planning decisions, has left us with complex supply and sewage treatment problems. However, hidden away in water and wastewater treatment plants around the country we have a wealth of fantastic technical and operational personnel with extensive expertise, which I hope will now be allowed to play a more central role in the operation and management of our water services.

We must be very careful to remember that in all the hype about charges there are real public health issues at the core of this change as well as the environmental issues. Personally I would have preferred to have seen a standalone Water Authority similar to those in the UK prior to privatization based on regional areas where staff, equipment and expertise could be shared. Ireland is small enough to have based these on our existing River Basin Districts and to have had the catchment management functions associated with River Basin Management Plans also come under their auspices. Apart from knowing how to collect revenue and lay pipes, I am at a loss to know what Bord Gáis can bring to this critically important and technically very different industry.

The water industry represents a massive and continuous investment by the tax payer for over a century and it should not be allowed to be asset stripped by the private sector, although it is unlikely that with its small size, dispersed population and the complex arrangement with Group Water Schemes that it will prove to be an attractive investment for some time to come. I wish Water Ireland well, but hope that it creates a sustainable water infrastructure for the future and prosperity of Ireland.

1 comment:

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