The Watchdog Paddle



From left: Dr Tom Collins, chair of the Dublin Institute of Technology, and Dr Manfred Schewe, from University College Cork

A new Public Water Forum has been established under the Water Services Act 2013, chaired by Dr Tom Collins, of DIT.

The forum – through the Commission for Energy Regulation – is now recruiting 32 members, 20 of whom will be selected from the public, both Irish Water customers and those who don’t wish to register with Irish Water.

The Irish Independent is reporting that the members won’t be paid and that Dr Collins has waived a proposed fee of  €10,000 per year.

The forum is expected to meet between four and six times a year.

Dr Collins spoke to Rachael English on RTÉ One’s Morning Ireland this morning about what the forum is and what it can and cannot do.

Rachael English: “Members are being sought for a forum, to monitor the activities of one of the country’s most beleaguered companies, Irish Water. The public water forum will advise the Minister for the Environment, Irish Water and the Commission for Energy Regulation, on issues affecting consumers. Dr Tom Collins will chair the forum and he is here, good morning. What will this forum do and what sort of powers will it have?”

Dr Tom Collins:  “What it will do is it will provide a vehicle, a place and a process whereby people from different views regarding the management of water and assemble and share their views and arrive at a level of awareness, a level of consensus on all kinds of issues that are a priority and how they should be addressed. It’s power will be the power that’s usually associated with any watchdog. It will have both, in a sense, biting powers and barking powers. The bite will arrive from a memorandum of understanding which people will sign both with Irish Water and the Commission for Energy Regulation which will codify how we expect those two bodies to react to our proposals and our submissions. And the bark, of course, will require both bodies to explain to the public, if they choose not to accept our submissions.”

English: “But you won’t have any formal powers as such. You won’t be able to compel Irish Water to do anything. Or will you?”

Collins: “No it’s not  a compellability entity in that sense. It’s much more about arriving at a level of public debate, a level of public consensus, informing the public and informing the Government and the two organisations that have specific remit in this area as to what are the dominant issues amongst consumers.”

English: “So how do you go about then ensuring that your advice is taken on board,  that you don’t just become a talking shop?”

Collins: “We will publish any reports as standard, we will  specify and codify what the specifics or our proposals and submissions were and we will audit the extent to which the submissions were accepted or rejected as the case may be.”

English: “Will the forum have any role in deciding pricing or will this just be about water quality and the like?”

Collins: “No, pricing I think will be the dominant issue at, certainly, the early stage. It is clearly the issue that preoccupies I would say the public mind at the moment. So it will certainly focus on it. But my expectation, and of course I don’t want to preempt the work of the forum – my job is to facilitate the issues – my expectation is that it will focus, once the price issue is resolved and however way that happens, on issues to do with quality with public health, with the level of service, on investment priorities and I also think on issues like conservation, water is a finite, scarce and vulnerable source and we are probably the only species, as humans, we can destroy it not just for ourselves but for the wider eco system.”

Listen back in full here

Launch of the Recruitment Process for the Public Water Forum (Commission for Energy Regulation)

Bill boycotters will be invited to join Irish Water consumer forum (

Pic: Léargas

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14 thoughts on “The Watchdog Paddle

    1. Clampers Outside!

      What, that the public have to take over some comms function that we have paid consultants for already?

      Seriously, if that is reasonable…..
      It is necessary, because IW is a communications joke!

      1. Declan

        I think this is a consultative body as oppose to a communications body. It’s recognising that the public are stakeholder too and need some extra voice in the process. If you think this is the public taking over the PR function of IW then you read too many crappy reports. However it is obviously part of a larger media/PR strategy

  1. Kevin

    He’s off to a bad start if he thinks he is an impartial chair: “…water is a finite, scarce and vulnerable source…”

    Uhm, in most parts of the world, yes, but water is not scarce here in Ireland. Nor is there a scarcity of treated water — just a scarcity of working pipes.

    Right now, 50 percent of the treated water that leaves the reservoir never reaches a tap, because of leaks — and we still have enough water almost all of the time. But the great thing is that this means if we just fix the pipes we will have twice as much treated water as we currently need.

    It’s going to cost a lot of money to fix the pipes, and we should all have to pay for that through our taxes over the next decade or so…but why would anyone want to conserve water when we have an abundance of it?

    Why would anyone want to spend hundreds of millions of taxpayers’ money on maintaining a metering and payment system (with installers, inspection vans, checking systems, call centres, envelope-stuffers, marketing, advertising, etc.) that charges people more if they don’t conserve something they have in abundance?

    Sofa king stupid.

    1. Dubloony

      “…water is a finite, scarce and vulnerable source…”
      Finite – Potable water is finite. It is highly processed to remove impurities and it limited by capacity to generate that fresh water.
      Scarce – example, Dublin is at capacity now. As the city grows, and assuming no natural disaster, we will have more times when pressure is reduced over night. In other pats of the country, people are reliant on local sources, wells or are purchasing bottled water.
      Vulnerable – Leaks, floods, drought periods, pollution all make it vulnerable.

      In a country that rains as much as it does here, it does sound laughable. But its true.

      1. ollie

        Dubloony, enough of your propaganda.
        Dublin produces around 51% more water daily than is required. irish water have sepnt around 1 billion euros to date, not a cent of which has been spent on additoinal production capacity or leak repairs.
        This public water forum was part of the original water legislation and is now 2 years late.
        Yet another diversion tactic by a desperate government.

      1. ReproBertie

        No it hasn’t. The water charges were set up by the IMF to provide a reliable revenue stream, along with the property tax, for the government. This removes the reliance on stamp duty which left them broke after the bust. It makes no sense at all to privatise it. It would as stupid as privatising motor tax.

        1. ollie

          Or privatising bin charges, transport, the lotto, graveyards (yes, remember when these were owned and managed by local authorities), motorways, etc.

          Think of it this way, a government in power for 4 years can exepct to get about 10 billion for 100% of irish water. So, if 49% is sold off with some lame excuse about retaining control (think Aer Lingus), it will make a nice few quid for vote buying.

          The lotto was sold off for €400 million to fund a new hospital, yet the HSE were given an extra €500 million last year to make up for a budget defecit. How stupid was that?

  2. Clampers Outside!

    Not sure why this is needed…. yes, IW is a mess, but what is this going to do the IW shouldn’t already be doing.
    Is this some sort of distraction to satiate those of us that want IW’s protection from privatisation enshrined in the constitution?
    It won’t work.

    The only thing that can be said about the fact that this is being set up, is that the communications from Irish Water, you know the comms that are being handled by that ‘consultant’… *stupefied snigger* …have failed so miserably, the public are having to do it themselves.

    What were €80m(+?) spent on consultants for again?

  3. Louise Hannon

    The pigs (given the day) have taken over the farm. Unbelievable waste of time. One of the functions apparently is to find out why people are not paying. Just what part of ” We have no more money” do they not understand?

  4. Kevin M

    Interesting. Is this the equivalent of getting the Government to the negotiation table, in lieu of abolishing the lot? Who will chose those who are involved in this exercise? does the establishment of this forum mean that the 16 PR entities involved will no longer be getting paid massive consultancy fees? Will this forum be made up of FG/FF/Lab supporters? Is this an exercise in identifying ‘leaders’ in the movement against the water charges? When will it be used to beat Sinn Féin, Right2Change, the Socialsts, Soc dems over the head with?

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