NEW water charges that will see farmers levied for every water meter installed on their land have been heavily criticised by county councillors from the Ballina area.
A motion by Cllr John O’Hara calling for a reversal of the decision was supported by other councillors at the monthly meeting of Ballina Municipal District.
“It’s very unfair. Up until now each farmer was charged for one meter and then was charged for the volume of water used, even though there was a meter in every field,” Cllr O’Hara said.
“In the West of Ireland we have two-acre fields, ten-acre fields… up to between 30 and 50 acres. They were all managed by a group water scheme many years ago by the farming community and they put this water into the field for their own convenience. Then the council ran it… Irish Water came along then and they decided to put a meter on every supply.”
Since October 1, a new regime for water charges on farms replaced 44 different charging regimes and over 500 different tariff levels.
Under these new arrangements, some farmers will also be subject to levies for every water meter installed on their land.
Cllr O’Hara said a farmer with six meters could be liable for a bill of €400 in addition to what they would pay for the estimated amount of the water used.
“It’s a crime what they’re doing, charging for water, and all the water we have in Ireland,” added Cllr O’Hara.
The Bunniconlon-based councillor was supported by fellow members of the municipal district, with Independent councillor Séamus Weir describing plans to charge for water based on estimated used as ‘crazy’.
Cllr Michael Loftus said he knew of one water scheme that Irish Water sought to take over which would cost ‘four times’ the original price given to Mayo County Council.
“I totally agree with Séamus and John in relation to Irish Water. They’re just screwing around with rural areas,” said the Crossmolina-based councillor.
Cathaoirleach of Ballina Municipal District Cllr Annie Mae Reape echoed her fellow councillors criticism, saying that Irish Water have made it ‘very difficult to get anything done’ with local water schemes.
“It was a bad system from Day 1,” said Cllr Reape.
Director of Services with Mayo County Council Tom Gilligan said that Cllr O’Hara’s motion should be put before a monthly meeting of the county council, given that the issue was being raised all over the county.