Fight the Water Tax!

Water Tax protest in Dublin

On October 1st 2014 the Dublin government intend to start taxing families across the Twenty-Six Counties for their water supply. éirígí believes that access to high quality water is a fundamental human right that the state should uphold for all citizens, regardless of their income. We believe that the people of Ireland should be the primary beneficiaries of the natural resources of Ireland, including its water. We further believe that the Water Tax is an unjust and immoral tax that will transfer wealth from the many to the few.

For these reasons éirígí is actively opposing the introduction of the new Water Tax and committed to working with like minded individuals and organisations to build a popular campaign of opposition to this unjust tax.

Below we answer the most common questions that we have been asked in relation to the new Water Tax. And we also outline the type of campaign we think can be built to oppose and defeat this unjust tax. If you agree with our analysis of the Water Tax and you are interested in joining the battle to defeat the Water Tax get in touch with us at eirigigeneralsecretary@gmail.com

 

 

The government say that people need to pay for the water that they use. That sounds reasonable, doesn’t it?

Yes it is reasonable that everybody should contribute to the cost of water. But it is not reasonable to expect people to pay TWICE for the same water. The new Water Tax is a form of ‘double taxation’ as people are already paying for their water. This is fundamentally unjust.

 

So how are people already paying for water services?

Water services in the Twenty-Six Counties are currently paid for out of general taxation. In other words the government use a portion of the money that they get from Income Tax, Value Added Tax, Fuel Duty, Alcohol Duty and a range of other taxes to pay for water services. So virtually everyone is already making a contribution towards the cost of water services.

 

How much does it cost to provide water services and who pays for it?

It costs about €1.2 billion annually to provide water and waste water treatment across the state. Commercial and industrial users pay about €250 million of that sum with the government paying the remaining €950 million from general taxation.

 

And how much does it cost to provide water to each household?

It has been estimated that it costs about €630 to provide water to each household in the state that is supplied from the mains water system (as opposed to a private well or a private group water scheme).

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How much are my family already paying for water services?

Each household in the state is already paying an average of roughly €500 per year for water services.

 

Will I have to pay the new Water Tax in addition to the €500 we are already paying?

Yes, the government expect you to pay the new Water Tax as well as the money you are already paying in general taxation. There will be no reduction in general taxation to compensate for the new Water Tax.

 

What is Irish Water / Uisce Éireann?

Irish Water / Uisce Éireann is the semi-state company that the Dublin government established in 2013 to provide water services and waste water treatment across the state.

 

I’ve heard that Irish Water / Uisce Éireann were given control of the water infrastructure in the state. Is that true?

Yes. An estimated €10billion worth of physical infrastructure has been transferred to Irish Water. This infrastructure includes reservoirs, water treatment plants, pipe-work, pumping stations, waste water treatment plants etc. All this infrastructure was paid for with taxpayers money over many decades.

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Is it true that Irish Water / Uisce Éireann has also received a large amount of taxpayer’s money from the government?

Yes, Irish Water / Uisce Éireann has been handed about €1billion in cash by the government. An estimated €85million of this money has already been spent on paying private consultancy firms. About €500million is set to be spent on the installation of 1.1million water meters. The remaining several hundred million of taxpayers Euros will be used for ill-defined ‘start-up’ costs.

 

Will it be more efficient to have a single water management company?

On paper it may well make sense to have a single efficient entity managing water services across the state but it doesn’t look like Irish Water / Uisce Éireann is going to do that. Within months of being set up Irish Water / Uisce Éireann spend tens of millions of Euros on consultancy fees and set about employing 29 executives with salaries of over €100,000 each. It looks likely that those same executives will also enjoy significant bonuses on top of their salaries. So it looks like Irish Water / Uisce Éireann will be another quango providing highly paid jobs for the boys.

 

Is it true that Denis O’Brien is benefiting from the new Water Tax?

Yes it is. Three construction companies have been awarded an estimated €500million to install 1.1million water meters across the state. The awarding of these contracts represented a massive windfall for the companies in question. One of the three companies that won a contract is Sierra, owned by the tax-dodging billionaire Denis O’Brien who purchased Sierra just prior to it winning the very valuable water meter contract. As part of its change of ownership Sierra had €100million worth of tax-payers money written off by the IBRC (formerly Anglo Irish Bank).

This is the same Denis O’Brien who the Moriarty Tribunal found guilty of channelling large amounts of cash to Fine Gael Minister Michael Lowry in the run up to the awarding a massively-profitable mobile phone license by the same Minister’s Department to Denis O’Brien’s Esat company. In other words the Moriarty Tribunal found the O’Brien bribed Lowry in return for the awarding of a highly profitable contract. You can make your own mind up on that one!

 

Water metering will help protect a precious and limited natural resource, won’t it?

In some countries water metering was introduced to reduce water usage as there was a serious shortfall in overall water supplies. In Ireland, however, just 2% of the available water supply is extracted for human related activity each year. So while there is a cost in making water fit for human consumption there is no shortage of water as a raw material.

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Water Tax protest in Wexford

 

Water Meters and the Water Tax will benefit the environment, won’t they?

It is true that Water Meters and Water Taxes appear to have contributed to reduced water usage in other countries. However the benefit of possible reduced water usage in a country with no shortage of water must be measured against the environmental cost of installing and maintaining 1.1million water meters.

Vast amounts of raw materials, energy and fuel will be consumed in the manufacturing and transporting of 1.1million water meters and the 1.1million plastic stopcock chambers that hold the water meters. Further vast quantities of raw materials, energy and fuel will be used in the physical installation of the water meters as each meter chamber will need to be imbedded in concrete, with workers, machinery and materials requiring transport to and from each of the 1.1 million sites. And each of the 1.1million installations will generate waste in the form of excavated materials that will need to be transported to suitable waste disposal locations.

Once the water meters have been installed they will continue to extract an environmental cost as each unit will need to regularly ‘read’ by an Irish Water employee for the purpose of billing. Over time the water meters will also need replacing, incurring many of the same environmental costs as the original installations.

And finally the environmental cost of running Irish Water in the form of offices, office supplies, vehicles, paper billing etc must all be weighed against possible reductions in water usage.

 

Is it true that a lot of water is lost through leaks in the pipe network?

Yes. About 40% of all treated water is lost through leaks in the pipe network. If the money that is being spent on water meter installation was instead used to repair these leaks this would have an immediate, dramatic effect on the overall demand for water.

 

Can water users change their behaviour to reduce usage?

Yes. There are many simple steps that people can take to reduce their water usage, steps which could form the basis of a water-user education programme that could be rolled out for a fraction of the €500 million that will be spent on water meter installation. The government could also introduce incentives and penalties to encourage the use of water-efficient toilets, washing machines, dishwashers, power showers etc. Like the repairs to the pipe network these measures would dramatically reduce water consumption at a fraction of the cost of water metering.

 

So if it isn’t to protect the environment, why are the government introducing the Water Tax?

Even the Dublin government have given up pretending that the Water Tax is being introduced as an environmental protection measure. The Water Tax is being introduced for one reason only and that is to provide the government with additional revenue to pay back the massive debts that were taken on by the state as a result of the bailing out of the private banks, the speculators and developers. It is yet one more example of ordinary people being forced to pay for the greed of the Golden Circle.

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At least Irish Water / Uisce Éireann will be a publicly-owned resource. This is good isn’t it?

The idea of publicly owned utility companies is of course a very good idea, but it is almost certain that Irish Water / Uisce Éireann will be sold to a private company at some point in the not too distant future. The ideology that underpins the Troika, the EU and the right wing parties in Ireland demands that private companies are given control of virtually all aspects of society. We have already seen the total or partial privatisation of Irish Steel, Irish Sugar, Cablelink, Aer Lingus, Eircom and Bord Gáis amongst others. Other state companies and assets like the ESB and Colilte are already in the sights of the private sector. It is completely illogical and dishonest of the establishment political parties to claim the Irish Water / Uisce Éireann will be spared from privatisation.

 

Will older people, disadvantaged families and others be exempt from paying for their water?

The Dublin government are claiming that the Water Tax will be ‘fair’ with some form of total or partial waivers for the less well off and others in special circumstances. But nobody should be fooled by these short-term measures as they are only being introduced to smooth the introduction of the Water Tax. Once the Water Tax is established the waivers will be abolished. This is exactly the same approach that was taken when it came to introducing bin charges in Dublin City. Families and communities that might otherwise have resisted the bin tax were bought off with promises of waivers. And once the bin service was privatised the waivers were abolished. Fool me once shame on you – Fool me twice shame on me!

 

What happens when Irish Water / Uisce Éireann is privatised?

Once Irish Water / Uisce Éireann is privatised its’ new owners will be motivated by profit and profit alone. This means that an additional profit margin will need to be added onto every householder’s water bill. It will also mean that long-term investment in the infrastructure of water provision and waste water treatment will suffer at the hands of the short-term need for greater profits. Ultimately it is likely that several private companies will end up running a de facto cartel which will keep water prices high and company profits and executives wages even higher. This scenario has already happened in a number of countries, including England.

 

What can be done to stop the sell-off of Ireland’s water resources to private speculators?

The battle to protect Ireland’s water resources from the clutches of asset-strippers and speculators begins with the battle against the Water Tax. If the Water Tax can be defeated it will not be possible to establish Irish Water / Uisce Éireann as a going concern that would be of interest in the private sector. Here are some ways that we can all work to defeat the Water Tax:

  • Get informed and start spreading the word
    Talk to your family, friends, work colleagues and neighbours about the Water Tax and what the government and private sector have planned for their water supplies. And encourage them to do their own research so they too can spread the word.
  • Register your opposition to the Water Tax with your local politicians
    While éirígí has no faith in the establishment political parties we think there is still value in letting them know just how angry people are about the Water Tax. So go ahead and contact your local councillors and TD’s and make it clear to them that the Water Tax is a ‘red line’ issue for you and your family. Gombeen politicians know a thing or two about self-survival so the more opposition they hear to the Water Tax the better.
  • Get involved with a local anti-Water Tax group, or start your own
    There are a large number of anti-Water Tax and anti-austerity groups already in existence across the state. If there is one in your area get in contact with them. If there is no anti-Water Tax group in your area, or you don’t wish to work with the existing group, why don’t you start your own? Or you can contact éirígí and we will do what we can to help.
  • Help peacefully blockaded the installation of water meters in your community
    Communities in Cork, Dublin and elsewhere have successfully prevented Irish Water / Uisce Éireann from installing water meters in their areas. The use of civil disobedience in the form of a peaceful blockade is a legitimate, and tried and tested tactic used the world over by political activists. Nobody should hesitate to use such tactics in defence of the right of their family to access water which they have already paid for – water that is coming through infrastructure that they and their parents and grandparents paid for.
  • Protect your water supply from unjust water metering
    In February 2013 éirígí produced a video showing homeowners how they could modify water-meter ready stopcock chambers to prevent the installation of water meters. By April 2014 over 40,000 people had viewed that video which can be viewed here. And then do what you have to do!
  • Attend and organise Water Tax protests
    Be sure to attend as many anti-Water Tax protests as you can. It doesn’t matter whether there are ten people or ten thousand, protesting is an important and very visible way to build opposition. Don’t wait for political parties, politicians or protest groups to get organised. Talk to your family, friends and neighbours about organising protest in your own area on your own terms.
  • Use social media to build opposition and network with others
    Over the last decade social media has emerged as a powerful tool for building opposition to injustice. Use your own accounts to spread the arguments against the Water Tax and to identify people of like mind from your area and across the country. You can also use social media to advertise your protests, meetings and events.
  • Stand in solidarity with other communities
    As usual the government are trying to get their way by dividing and conquering. The antidote to this poison is solidarity. If possible travel to communities that are already protesting, or organising blockades and stand with them. If you can’t travel use social media to register your support and highlight the actions of those communities that are fighting back.
  • Boycott the Water Tax
    Regardless of how many water meters have been installed Irish Water are going to start issuing bills to all households from January 2015. éirígí supports a boycott campaign whereby households will refuse to pay these unjust bills.

    The tactic of boycott has deep roots in Ireland stretching back hundreds of years when it was used against landlords and their agents. In recent times it was successfully used to defeat the ‘household charge’ and force the government and the Revenue Commissioners to use unprecedented draconian powers to collect the Property Tax that replaced the failed ‘household charge’.

    Each time the state is forced to use draconian powers it is a victory for those who wish to expose the true nature of the state and its lack of moral authority. No one should be surprised when the powerful use their power to attempt to crush the weak. The Dublin government will without doubt also use bully-boy tactics to attempt to break a boycott of the Water Tax, but that is no reason for people to accept injustice. The correct response to a bully is defiance.

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Click on the links below to read stories from the éirígí news archive related to the Water Tax campaign.

    02/05/14: Water Meter Resistance in Dublin North East....

    05/04/14: Mac Coitir – DRD/NIW preparing for water charges....

    27/09/13: Coolock Prepares for Water Tax Fight Back....

    21/08/13: Fight the Water Tax With Direct Action Now!....

    23/06/13: Water Tax Meter Installation Must be Resisted....

    20/02/13: éirígí Water Meter Sabotage Video Launched....

    11/02/13: Phil Hogan Water Tax Protest Announced....

    12/01/13: Water Tax Will Be Opposed....

 

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