Two of the worlds most prominent environmentalists and leading experts on water have written to Green Party Senator Grace O’Sullivan, member of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Water, urging her not to support metered charges for so-called ‘excessive use’.
Maude Barlow, National Chairperson of the Council of Canadians and founder of the Blue Planet Project, wrote to Senator O’Sullivan stating:
“Access to clean, safe drinking water and adequate sanitation are fundamental human rights that are essential for human health, dignity and well-being. As many countries fall short of their obligations to ensure that this right is enjoyed by all segments of the population, Ireland has successfully maintained universal coverage through central taxation and non-domestic usage fees. I am writing to urge you not to jeopardize this successful model that serves as an example to the rest of the world by introducing metered user fees.”
She added, “There is very little evidence that the introduction of metered water charges will serve any benefit to the environment, yet the potential social and public health costs of restricting access to more marginalized segments of the population are very high.”
Wenonah Hauter, founder and Executive Director of Washington based Food & Water Watch wrote to Senator O’Sullivan saying:
“Metering and water pricing, the policies that many economists have advocated for encouraging conservation, is a wrong minded strategy.”
She explained how a market oriented pricing system does not work in reality:
“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.”
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