Directive 2014/25/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 February 2014 on procurement by entities operating in the water, energy, transport and postal services sectors made it abundantly clear that no member state is entitled to operate a "monopoly" of any utility provision, even if that monopoly is in the interests of citizens.
From 1997 until 2014, water was free in Eire - that is to say that it was paid for out of general taxation, and provided by local authorities without consumer charges. The only problem was that some of the rural drinking water did not come up to EU standards. There have been a few cases of E-coli in the last decade and in certain areas it is regarded as advisable to boil the drinking water. Although this only affects 1.3% of supplies, Eire has been prosecuted at the European Court of Justice and the government faces unlimited fines if it does not offload its responsibilities to an independent company. They are hoping that investors will provide the cash needed to clean and improve the supply system. It is estimated that 41% of water is at present lost because of leakage. The drawback of privatisation is obviously that people suddenly have to pay for water. Each household will get 30m³ per year of free water, after which €4.88/m³ including taxes will be charged. Rates will be capped until March 2015 at an annual fixed rate of €176 plus €102 for every additional adult living in a household.
One protest at Dublin was bordering on open violence. And another big public demonstration is planned for early December. People are refusing to let the new water meters be installed in their houses.
Labour members of the Irish parliament are behaving in a predictably opportunistic way and making promises to reverse the privatisation with a referendum or legislation - but even they can hardly be so ignorant as not to know that this change is inevitable under EU law. They are behaving just like the Labour MPs in England who pretended to oppose privatisation of the Post Office while voting for the EU which is imposing it.
If you want to buy shares in the new Irish Water Company UISCE you've got until 30th November to apply. The date has been extended because so few people applied.
Fill in the online form and using the PIN number sent to you through the post.
Have questions? Please call Irish Water on 1890 448 448.
OJ L 94, 28.3.2014, p. 243–374 (BG, ES, CS, DA, DE, ET, EL, EN, FR, HR, IT, LV, LT, HU, MT, NL, PL, PT, RO, SK, SL, FI, SV)