Sunday, 27 September 2015

In Ireland, water is not a “scarce resource”

Water is not a scarce resource in Ireland. Water is a valuable resource but it only becomes valuable if we actually use it.

Time and again we have to listen to politicians, Irish Water executives, environmentalists, journalists, chat show hosts, and the writers of “letters to the editor” refer to water as a “scarce resource”. Sadly those whose job it is to make life difficult for our politicians, by interviewing them on radio and television, never challenge this assertion.

Water is not a scarce resource in Ireland, a look out of the window on most days will confirm that fact. If water is scarce in certain areas it is because the powers that be have failed to arrange for its movement from where it is plentiful to where it is needed. This failure is not the result of a lack of resources. Dublin’s water problems could have been resolved for generations to come with the money wasted on installing domestic water meters.
Water is a valuable resource, which is quite different from scarce. It is, however, only valuable if we use it. The Government and environmentalists should therefore be encouraging us to make good use of water. They should not be urging us to use less of it or penalising those who find ways to use it productively. They should be aware that penalising those who might be inclined to waste water will also inhibit many who have valid reason to use it.
The optional use of water is often required to:
  • Ensure we have flowers in our garden
  • Have hanging baskets and potted plants outside our homes
  • Keep house plants alive
  • Grow vegetables in allotments and back gardens
  • Ensure compost rots properly
  • Wash plastic containers, cans, jars and bottles before recycling them
  • Keep our cars clean
  • Fill children’s paddling pools
  • In my own case, I power hose my white garden wall once a year. The politicians want to penalise me for removing the traffic grime.
If we charge for water different people are going to take undesirable measures to conserve it:
  • Some will shower less often.
  • Some will fill containers of cold water while they wait for the hot water to come from the tap or shower (OK in the Australian outback but not in Ireland).
  • Some will save the water from their washing machine to water the garden.
  • Some will go to the toilet before they leave work or a shopping centre, to reduce the number of flushes at home (saw that suggested in the Web).
  • Some who would normally wash fresh fruit before eating it will instead give it a rub with a tissue.
  • Some will drive to the car wash in the mistaken belief that they are saving water and money.
  • Older people who visit the toilet frequently at night will only flush it in the morning. (On the web it was suggested that they should “pee in a bottle or chamber pot”)
  • and you can be sure that there is someone somewhere in Ireland building an old style privy in his back garden in the belief that the contents can be used to fertilise the rhubarb patch. The neighbours will love him.
It is perfectly acceptable to encourage people not to leave the tap running while brushing their teeth, to reduce the time spent in the shower, and not to overfill the kettle while making a single cup of tea. It is not acceptable, nor is it worthwhile, to penalise those who fail to comply.

The Government should go further in encouraging the use of water. It would make economic sense to offer unlimited free water to non-polluting industries which depend on a plentiful supply of clean water. The only provision should be that employment is created.

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