Following on from my blog last week about the need for water conservation to ensure no disruption to the economy, it was of interest to read that the government now expects the public to pay the full cost of the installation of water meters upfront (RTE website 15/04/2012). Whilst metering is a rational way to allocate scarce resources, the government is going to have a difficult enough task to convince the public that they should pay for water; expecting consumers to pay €300 upfront for the meter is akin to an own goal.
This approach is analogous to a driver paying for his/her share of the entire cost of a toll motorway over one journey. The cost to build the Dublin to Galway motorway was €427m. With approx 2.5 million cars the tariff displayed at the toll both would be €171 for the one way journey but free thereafter using the same logic proposed for water meters. The norm in a sensibly run country is for the capital cost to be spread out over the life of the project which is why the motorway toll is an affordable €2.70. For water meters, the cost should be spread out over something like 30 years resulting in a cost of perhaps €33 per year including interest and can be added to the standing charge (if the government has actually thought of a standing charge). This would be much fairer and more palatable to the general public.
Industry needs a continuity of water and is replying on government to implement sensible schemes that are fair, acceptable and stand a good chance of being implemented. The score card so far reads ‘must try harder’.