Tuesday 26 July 2011

National water authority should be owned by the public, says CIF

A new national water authority currently being considered by the government should be publicly owned and have control of the water distribution and wastewater collection systems, according to the Construction Industry Federation (CIF).

The builders’ representative body met with consultants PricewaterhouseCoopers last Thursday, which is conducting a review into the establishment of an authority for the government.

PwC has already met with several other possible stakeholders.

The CIF also believes water supplies should be competitively purchased from the existing water authorities, or from other state or commercial interests. It believes such an approach would encourage the development of a national water grid and provide an element of competition between water producers. Another option it has proposed for the government to consider is for consumers to purchase directly from a water producer, in the same way as gas or electricity is bought from providers.

The group also believes the amalgamation of the water authorities - currently provided by 34 different authorities - will yield substantial cost savings. ‘‘Scope will exist to significantly reduce the numbers employed in management , administration, planning and procurement, and serious consideration should be given to outsourcing maintenance operations," said Don O’Sullivan, director of tendering and contracts with the CIF.

‘‘The CIF believes that ‘Irish Water’ [a proposed national authority] should be run on a commercial basis and apart from the initial investment - in the circumstances of public ownership – to meet the set-up costs, there should be no exchequer subvention. Irish Water should have the capacity to borrow to meet the cost of new infrastructure or to enter long-term contracts with the private sector or public authorities for water supplies," he said.

The federation believes the template of the National Roads Authority (NRA) is one on which a new national water body could be based. It also believes a single national water tariff should be approved annually by a national regulator, but that customers who do not receive quality services and standards should be refunded full or partial levies.

There submission also said that consideration could be given to volume discounts and surcharges for large commercial consumers, or to discourage excessive water usage where appropriate.

‘‘Preferably, consumers would be required to make direct payment for water supplies, and receive compensating payments under the social welfare code where necessary," O’Sullivan said.

Sunday Business Post


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