Another consequence of the bad weather was the water cut-offs, especially in the county areas. A creaking water supply infrastructure that goes back a century in some cases with old metal pipes could not handle the bad weather and very cold temperatures. Under-investment in water and water being lost through leaking pipes has led to waste levels nationally and locally of 50 per cent. Kilkenny is near the top of the list with waste of 57 per cent. It is not just old pipes being a problem, we met people in new houses whose pipes had frozen too.
Often this is down to poor construction with pipes not well insulated against the cold. Elsewhere in the country, it was noted that pipes were not laid deep enough by builders in contravention of building regulations in what was probably a cost saving measure.
Such persons may have to revert to home bond to get this matter remedied but, in a recession when builders may no longer be trading, this may not be the solution. At the end of the day, more investment in water is needed. Fine Gael has come up with a plan for a National Water Authority, taking it away from local authorities.
This makes sense and follows the model in other countries. In Ireland, we inherited a Victorian system and it is time to change. Like it or not, householders may have to pay for water in the future but, if they were assured of a better system that was more efficient, there is some justification.
Underinvestment in piping is a problem throughout the country as old pipes can no longer function. Some of them date back to the pre Independence time which really does highlight a lack of investment.
It is time to change and take new measures to deliver water to householders in a country that has so much rainfall there should never be water shortages or cut offs. The Fine Gael plan of a water authority is a step in the right direction and it would relieve local authorities from a burdensome cost.