Commission must now set out to Ireland what is legal under Water Framework Directive- Hayes
The European Commissioner for the Environment, Karmenu Vella, has written to Brian Hayes MEP and stated that simply imposing fines for wasteful usage of water may not be enough to address our water infrastructure problems.
“I put the question to Commissioner Vella about whether Fianna Fáil’s submission to the Oireachtas Committee on Water proposing fines for ‘wilful abuse of water’ would ensure compliance with the EU Water Framework Directive.
“Commissioner Vella has raised serious doubts about whether Fianna Fáil’s proposal would be sufficient to address our water infrastructure problems and bring us in line with the Water Framework Directive. The Commissioner also pointed out that Ireland, under the previous Fianna Fáil government, made a clear commitment to introduce water charges to comply with the Directive.
“It is time for the Commission to set out unequivocally what is and what is not legal in terms of the Water Framework Directive. There should be full disclosure from the Commission and it should make itself available to appear before the Oireachtas Committee on the Future funding of water services. It is time to put a conclusion to the ongoing questions of how we can ensure compliance with EU law on water.
“One thing we do get definitive confirmation on is that we cannot revert to our previous practice of paying for water through general taxation. This would clearly constitute a breach of the Water Framework Directive for which we would be liable for massive fines.
“We simply cannot put in place something that is in breach our environmental obligations and the Water Framework Directive. As the Commissioner points out, we have an abysmal track record when it comes to compliance with the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive and the Directive on drinking water.
“On the basis of this letter from Commissioner Vella, it is my view that we need to have some form of water charges that applies the polluter pays principle but also provides a reliable revenue stream. There has been way too much politicking around water. We need to what is right for the consumer and what is right for our water supply system.
“The government, through the confidence and supply arrangement, directed the Expert Water Commission to deliver proposals on the future funding of water services. We must take this work seriously and actually use the proposals delivered by the Expert Water Commission as a basis for all parties to come to agreement.”