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“The pollution of the planet is only an outward reflection of an inner psychic pollution: millions of unconscious individuals not taking responsibility for their inner space.”
Eckhart Tolle
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Irish Water and Privatisation – A Study

Water beyond the market – Charlotte Lots & Guillaume Vico

A study by 2 Belgian students from the Business School of Vlerick examining the issues around water privatisation in Ireland and the rest of the world.

Links:

The full study document: Water beyond the market (.pdf)

Presentation: Water beyond the market (.pptx)

 


 

This thesis and powerpoint presentation crystalizes the findings of the 2 students, Charlotte Guillaume.

Their work supports the view that access to water should be a legally and socially enforceable right enshrined in Law. Therefore protecting water and its management in the Irish Constitution is the only viable option. How to propose and produce efficient water management in Ireland that prevents possible future privatisation both in ownership and management, and empowers local communities to look after this resource?

The good news is that in Europe, water management like the energy transition is changing our communal ecosystem. Until recently, water management was encouraged to be centralized and privatized by the Worldbank and the EU which effectively led to the establishment of Irish water in 2013. Recently however in Europe and in particular in France, the ills of privatization (lack of transparency, inequality and unaccountability) have resulted in significant transformation of water management operators from private management to local ownership/management. In other words the trend has now moved towards decentralization and might inform how Irish Water will be managed in the future. How to establish a centralized operation system that empowers local communities?

The Water Services Act took the power away from local county councils which had up until then been in charge of water management in local communities. Since the establishment of Irish water the country evolved from direct public management to delegated public management. This is important because the legal water utility framework of a country impacts the structure of water pricing. Irish Water is returning to a fully state-owned commercial utility in 2023. We hope this means that it will be run under direct public management again. We hope this will produce great new opportunities.

What measures are necessary?

Who will put these measures into action and what institutions are best suited to put these in place?

The Irish population is expected to grow by 1000 000 people by 2040. These people will be housed in more densely populated cities around Ireland. The RIAI has launched an Irish Cities 2070 initiative to contain the sprawl. If it is argued that Cork, Limerick, Waterford, and Galway need more autonomy, how is this going to translate into water management?

The main concerns to act on are:

  1. Protecting ownership of water and its management in the Irish Constitution. Local communities taking ownership and responsibility for water and its management is not the same as privatisation.
  2. Upgrading the infrastructure;
    – 761 million litres of Irish drinking water are lost per day in leakage which needs to be addressed.
    – Other urgent measures include separating waste water from rain water which is already prioritized in Europe.
  3. Developing awareness and public accountability for the use of water.
  4. The delicate issue of financing the upgrading of the infrastructure.

 

We hope this work supports the efforts in protecting Irish Water in the constitution. We are aware that there is not much time left to secure the protection of Irish Water in law before a general election which has the potential to take us back to the drawing board.

Marlene ffrench Mullen on behalf of Slí na Bandé