For the last few years supplies have been at a knife-edge in metropolitan Dublin with engineers struggling to supply enough water to cope with the city's expansion through the boom years.
In recent weeks pipe-leaks caused by the cold weather have compunded the problem, leading to lack of supply, water off notices and low pressure around the city. In Dún Laoghaire the Council has set up an emergency blog to update users on the current difficulties, and provided water tankers to badly-hit areas.
All sorts of options are being looked at for increasing water supply to Dublin, including contentious proposals to pipe water from the Shannon or Barrow rivers. The Dublin Water Supply Project website explores some of the options. A century of under-investment in water supply has contributed to the challenge that we face, and the City Council website gives an overview of where our water comes from. Since the Greens came into Government in 2007 John Gormley has increased the amount of investment in water services, and currently half a billion Euro is being spent per year. Apart from lack of supply, the quality issue is important, and there were significant outbreaks of Cryptosporidium around the country in recent years.
I'm not a great fan of the addition of fluoride to municipal water supplies, but many dentists say that it reduces fillings, but perhaps we should ensure that our children are consuming less sugar in the first instance. Many are concerned at the principal of mass medication, but it needs to be pointed out that adding iodine to salt has dramatically reduced the incidence of
In New York City most of the municipal water flows directly from reservoirs without treatment. However over there, they have a fine history of protecting watershed from development over the last hundred years. Closer to home we have allowed significant development to take place upstream of both the Roundwood and Blessington reservoirs, both of which supply the capital with water. Perhaps a stricter planning regime would allow us to spend less on purifying and cleansing our water before it is piped into Dublin.
The new Programme for Government that the Green Party negotiated with Fianna Fáil back in October of last year contains a proposal to install water meters and charge for excessive use. Richard Tol from the ESRI believes that all water should be charged for. Either way I believe that it makes sense to put a price on resources such as water. Naturally enough there are objections to charging for a resource that we often take for granted, and Joe has a meeting scheduled for the 13th February. Jaundiced rural dwellers will no doubt point out (as they did when waste charges were introduced) that they have been paying for water for years through their Group Water Schemes.
I feel we need to continue investment in reducing leaks throughout the system, but some sort of end of pipe charge can concentrate minds on using water resources wisely.