in government, Ireland, utilities

Why water meters were a bad decision (still)

Lots of spin going on today about why water meters are a good idea and how many leaks they are finding. Apparently, Irish Water has already identified 20 houses that were using loads and loads of water. But this is only one million litres a day of water.

That is obviously great, but greater savings, and a lot less aggravation could have been had by taking much simpler and less expensive measures in relation to finding leaks, and by using the 600 million euros to replace water pipes. The 539 million euros being spent on this metering program is enough to replace thousands of kilometres of water mains (and incidentally, meter boxes could be inexpensively fitted at the same time as doing this work).

Most leaks, certainly the massive ones listed above, could be tracked down by putting ‘bulk meters’ on the entrance to every street or housing estate, at a relatively low cost and without half the nonsense.

There is also an issue in relation to whether digging up old pipes to install water meters is actually causing leaks. Old pipes tend to be brittle and any manipulation could cause problems. It is hard to quantify how significant this could be.

It is not that installing meters is a bad idea. It is a good idea. The issue is that it would make more sense to do the most urgent work first. Some parts of the water network are in an awful state. That is without even getting on to talking about the sanitation network, which is equally bad. It makes sense to fix the worst parts as a matter of urgency, and then fit water meters as you go along.

Homeowners should certainly be incentivised to conserve. The best way to do this is to allow low users to opt in to having a water meter in the short-term.

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