Water And The Illusion Of Knowledge


Right2Water writes:

Today we learned the sad news that one of the worlds greatest intellectuals, Stephen Hawking, has died. He once said:

“The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge.”

So when Ronan Lyons, a senior economist says that water charges would have prevented water shortages, one would question whether this erroneous statement is through ignorance, or through assumed knowledge.

When people with actual expertise in this matter came to Ireland to talk about our water crisis, they were completely ignored.

Not one media outlet interviewed Maude Barlow or covered the two speeches she made.

Maude, if you don’t know, has written four books on water and was an advisor to the UN on water, along with dozens of other accolades.

She is widely recognised as one of he worlds leading experts on water. Her statement simply didn’t fit the medias and right-wing agenda.

“The Irish system of paying for water and sanitation services through progressive taxation and non-domestic user fees, is an exemplary model of fair equitable and sustainable service delivery for the entire world”

When the European Water Movement, the activists who are battling against water shut-offs and water poverty all across Europe released their statement on the water privatisation agenda in Ireland, they were also completely ignored.

“It is clear that the best method of securing access to water, and securing funds for infrastructural investment, is through general taxation.

“The European Water Movement views the struggle of the Irish people to abolish water charges, and to secure a referendum enshrining public ownership of Ireland’s water system, as yet more evidence of a real European people’s movement to democratise water management.”

When Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director for Food and Water watch provided the Irish media with some relevant and valuable information about water, again, ignored. Remember, Wenonah is based in a country where up to 70,000 families had their water shut off in one city alone, Detroit.

“Metering and water pricing, the policies that many economists have advocated for encouraging conservation, is a wrong minded strategy.”

“This market-oriented pricing reform is fundamentally flawed. It assumes that households can or will reduce water use when faced with metering and higher prices. However, residential water use is a small fraction of water withdrawals and even draconian water price increases will have little impact on household water consumption.

For most households, water goes towards essential uses like drinking, cooking and sanitation; consumer demand for water does not really change, regardless of price.

Economists call this price inelasticity. Consumers will not drink twice as much water if the price of water falls by half, nor will they reduce the amount of water they drink by half if the price of water doubles. A Food & Water Watch review of the economic literature found only a very modest consumer response to rising water prices. Households generally reduce water use slightly in the face of even steep price increases.”

Maybe we don’t get balanced coverage because the Irish media, who are currently struggling to make a profit, with many relying on paid advertorials from the government, were also receiving up to €3 million per year in advertising revenue from Irish Water?

Even when the government’s own “expert commission on water” published the facts and figures behind our water usage – supporting what Right2Water Ireland has been saying for years – the line from the media was that we need water charges.

Put simply, water can be paid for through three distinct methods:

1. Metered domestic charges (England, France)
2. Local rates (Northern Ireland, Scotland)
3. General taxation (Republic of Ireland)

The question everyone should be asking is, which is the optimum method of paying for water from an environmental, economic and social perspective.

With abstraction charges, effective commercial water charges and government subvention, Ireland can ensure we never have water poverty while at the same time providing the badly needed investment in our water infrastructure.

Don’t let ill informed ‘know-it-all’ economists or the media spin their ignorance or their propagenda in pursuit of a neo-liberal policy of water commodification and financialisation.

They did it in housing, health, education and other sectors of our society with devastating impacts, let’s keep our water out of their ideology and their ideology out of our water, and let’s not make the mistakes that the rest of the world has already made – and is paying for now.

Oh, and if you protested against the introduction of water charges, you are a hero, and you should be proud.

Do not let them blame you for water shortages, that responsibility is entirely down to those who refuse to tackle the real wasters (commercial enterprises) and those who cut funding for water infrastructure (Fianna Fail, Fine Gael, Labour and the Green Party).

Now, can we please stop the waste of money on meters, advertising, call centres, consultants, etc, and use the savings to fix the damn pipes?

And finally, sign the petition and call on your local TD’s to support a referendum on water ownership.

It’s Fake News Time Again In Pursuit Of Water Charges And The Privatisation Of Water (Right2Water)

49 thoughts on “Water And The Illusion Of Knowledge

    1. phil

      Agreed, no problems with meters , and I expect Irish Water to back up their claims of ppl running taps during the cold season by producing data from the installed meters , over that period…

      1. Clampers Outside!

        Aye, they said that use of water increased by 10 to 20% during the cold spell…. not at all mentioning that the entire country was practically housebound for those two days. So, of course consumption would increase.

        1. Kolmo

          It’s called softening-up opinion, manufacturing consent or creating a repeatable narrative that makes any deviation an act of irrational leftism..

          another classic is “Strategic Defaulters”, has oft been peppered into the public conversation before the yeomanry come in and kick people out of houses..

        2. Cian

          Why would consumption increase of your are at home?
          Do you wee more at home?
          Did you drink more tea?

          1. jusayinlike

            @Cian, people at home for longer means more flushing and kettle filling as oppose to going to work for half the day.

    2. Frenchfarmer

      “What’s wrong with having meters?”

      I”ll try to keep it short.

      Answer :- Absolutely nothing! No Problemo.

      At the moment here in France I have lived with water meters for over 30 years.
      Here the water sources belong to the commune and each commune chooses which company will ensure the supply.
      We own the water and we pay for the delivery, maintenance and investment for the future.
      In Eire you pay for all that but if your neighbour has five teenagers who shower three times a day but you live alone you are paying for one of those showers.
      Is that fair?

      Single elderly people paying for other people’s wasteful ways.
      is that fair?
      Where’s the encouragement to save water?

      As for the local Government/Water Boards;
      Committees create committees Ad infinitum and all their “expenses” come out of your pocket.
      Use less water pay less rates.

  1. shitferbrains

    Fair enough. So let’s slap a 10 cents in the euro tax for water and waste engineering instead of pretending that the pittance gathered from a miniscule proportion of VAT will do the job.

  2. b

    Paul Murphy, Right2Water, Ogle and Hearne , oh Broadsheet you are really spoiling us

    did I miss the Solidarity ‘Advertorial’ tag anywhere?

    1. mildred st. meadowlark

      Well you could always pick up your local paper for the latest FF approved content.

      If your tastes run to that.

      1. mildred st. meadowlark

        Or rather… FG approved content.

        But then, they’re rather interchangeable, aren’t they?

  3. kellma

    I agree that having meters isn’t a bad thing if you could use it to spot leaks etc. This was an interesting piece. I found myself nodding along to a lot of it.

  4. fergalfurious

    “right-wing agenda”
    It’s the crypto-communist Greens and globalist warming cultists who’ve been the biggest pushers of water charges. The Greens get to needlessly put hair-shirts on everybody and the globalists get to sell off our vast fresh water resources to O’Brien or the like.

  5. lolly

    I’d actually like to know how much water I use, I think most responsible citizens would. surely the obvious solution is to metre the water but give a generous allowance. no doubt someone will shout at me for saying this so let’s make it a very generous allowance.

    1. Rob

      I’ll shout with approval.

      General taxation shouldn’t go to filling swimming pools under Ailesbury Road.


      So care about water wastage?

      Rest assured the gov cudna give a flyn about conservation.

      Their end goal is NEVER to have the public ownership of water enshrined in the constitution
      in turn selling it to an international private co, thereafter the cost of ‘excessive usage’ charge will
      be on par with the gov’s current allowance limit charges and forever rise.

      The gov will have washed their hands of it.. and nests will have been feathered.

      Under privatisation waste will not reduce, pipes will be not be receiving upgrades an sooner.

      The next avoidable big pipe burst will be allowed to happen as a media vehicle to sway average joe.

    3. realPolithicks

      Why do you need to know how much you use, what difference does it make? Why can’t you simply make efforts to us as little water as you can? Not having a meter doesn’t prevent you from taking conservation measures now.

      1. Hansel

        It can help to spot leaks though, tbf.

        (If there’s no known usage at a time, and the meter is reading a flow)

      2. Cian

        “Not having a meter doesn’t prevent you from taking conservation measures now.”

        This is true. But many people have dripping taps and don’t bother to fix them. There is a cost with fixing the tap and no cost to leaving it drip.
        Yes, some people will notice the drip and fix it. But others won’t bother.

        If you meter people then they are made aware of the amount the use – suddenly the drip becomes more important to them and (some of them) will fix it.

        1. realPolithicks

          “But many people have dripping taps and don’t bother to fix them.”

          Thats a very cynical view, there may be a few people who would behave like this but I find it hard to believe that it would be more than a tiny percentage.

          1. Cian

            This is from the UK but suggests that 20% of people had a leaky tap in the last year, and 15 per cent of those failed (3% of total) to fix it and one in 10 (2% of total)didn’t repair it for a month. [https://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/351135/Leaky-taps-lose-enough-water-to-fill-1-000-swimming-pools]

            Another links suggest that 10% of US homes have a leaky faucet.

            Irish water say that 1% of homes have leaks that account for 15% of water consumption.

          2. Brother Barnabas

            i had a leaky tap once for about six months. not that i wasn’t bothered fixing it, i didn’t know how to. i made an effort to get a plumber but i forgot and was out when he called. then a gay friend of mine fixed it – in around 30 seconds, using his hands, a tea towel and assorted cutlery. i felt a small bit emasculated, but pleased at the same time.i know this isn’t really what we’re talking about.

        2. Cian

          Remember we all used to use plastic bags for our shopping? It was wrong and bad for the environment and created a lot of litter… but it was convenient.
          We, collectively as a nation, didn’t decide to “take conservation measures” and start bringing cloth bags with us to the shops. No. It was only with the introduction of the plastic bag tax that we changed our behaviour.

          I may be cynical, I don’t think (most) (Irish) people will change their behaviour unless there is a direct consequence on them for not doing so.

          1. kellma

            I agree. By nature, humans go for convenience and it is a small minority whose conscience really pushes them to make sacrifices of their time/convenience/purse for the planet. Usually, they have to be incentivized by it either a. being made legally compulsory or b. costing them more out of their wallet not to do so.

  6. halfahead

    Today we learned the sad news that one of the worlds greatest intellectuals, Jim Bowen, has died. He once said: “Keep out of the black and into the red, there’s nothing in the game for two in a bed”

  7. Joe

    Oh dear! You shouldn’t be dragging up the fetid corpse of the Irish Water/Fine Gael/Labour propaganda and lies that was regurgitated in the D O’B media as nausem . It led to half a billion euros of squandered tax payers money spent on useless faulty household water meters installed by FG’s pet cronies ! If you are really worried about leakage you don’t pee away tax payers money on such meters, you repair the pipe network. If you want to detect leaks then district water metering is far more efficient and cost effective than installing dodgy domestic water meters in every household.

    Excellent article by the way….

  8. RuilleBuille

    Water charges were being brought in not to conserve water but to privatise it. And we all know who would have purchased it.

    I never paid my bills and took part in every march but I am in favour of meters and billing but not to make a billionaire richer. Water has to be state owned forever.

  9. Cian

    The Irish system of paying for water and sanitation services through progressive taxation and non-domestic user fees, is an exemplary model of fair equitable and sustainable service delivery for the entire world” – Maude Barlow

    Unfortunately it has led to under investment in water over the last 30-odd years, so it’s not sustainable.
    There are a lot of people that have wells and private water schemes, so it’s not fair or equitable.

    1. Andy

      It doesn’t have to be fair or equitable.

      The key point is Murphy’s voters cant be asked to pay for it. Tis the exact same as Leo looking for tax cuts for his voters.

    2. Nuala Mc Namara

      1)Actually the LAs had 660 different contracts and water conservation projects on the go by the time IW set up and many of these transferred to IW!
      2)They had also steadily remedied supplies on the EPAs Remedial Action Lists from 339 in 2008-140 in 2013 over 5years & another 70 supplies were to be removed from RALs by end of 2013.(2014:[121]2015:[115]2016:[99]2017:[77]:over 3years)
      3)In ‘The State of Ireland 2013’ re Engineers Ireland it states:
      “LAs have made SIGNIFICANT progress in past 15years in improvement of public and waste water infrastructure”&”SIGNICANT investment in municipal wastewater treatment plants has ensured that HUGE PROGRESS has been made in the last decade”
      Now it does mention that “Some parts date from Victorian Era,others from 1950,s&1960’s when Ireland replaced sections of the network using asbestos cement”(pipes)
      Note:They state that these AC pipes are resistant to corrosion both internally & externally & able to withstand high internal pressures etcThey state that these AC pipes have contributed to high quality water& they have a permanently smooth internal wall so pumping costs less!
      4)As for private wells&private water schemes,they do get Government subsidies even re wells!Ireland incurred fines for septic tank failures re pollution & had to commence septic tank inspections & rules.Water users on public supplies didn’t complain about these fines!

      1. Nuala Mc Namara

        11% of people have wells according to Dept of Housing,Planning&Local Government & they can avail of subsidies of eg 75% costs re private wells.
        9% of people are in Group Water Schemes according to saw Dept and in January this year it was announced that “Group Water subsidy per house to go as high as €281 Irish Examiner &60%-85% increase in maximum subsidy per Group Water Scheme.

  10. some old queen

    I get the paranoia about who owns water upon a Greece situation but political careerists are just as disingenuous as two grand a day consultants.

    Irish Water calling county councils to account for their individualist approach to commercial rates is good stuff. More of this please.

  11. Truth in the News

    If the half a billion spent on meters was invested in replacing the pipe network
    would there be a problem at all and yet the latest is to supply Dublin from the
    Shannon and forget about the leaks.
    As to some of our economist folk, are they unaware that we have paid twice for
    water and if it could be got away with for a third time.

  12. painkiller

    As part of the EU-IMF bailout agreement, the FF-Green govt committed to raising 250m in new water taxes to strengthen the tax base and appease the IMF philosophy that privatisation is the most efficient outcome. Irish Water was set up for this single purpose and I couldn’t help but notice that water quality wasn’t mentioned anywhere in their mission statement.

    It’s very hard to move beyond that…all else aside.

    The lack of credibility and commitment to Irish Water threatened the stability of the last govt, even if there are some very valid arguments that we should pay for our water: http://economic-incentives.blogspot.ca/2015/03/paying-twice-for-water-not-really.html

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