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)