While there may be a reprieve of at least a year on the introduction of a water tax in Ireland, by 2015 paying for domestic water will be a reality. However at this month’s meeting of Clonmel Borough Council Cllr Siobhan Ambrose asked for an exemption scheme to be set up for people living in hard water areas, similar to that which is in place for those living in unfinished estates.
Hardwater may not be harmful to your health, but the same cannot be said for your kitchen appliances and showers - and your pocket. Cllr Ambrose tabled a motion calling for environment minister Phil Hogan to exempt homeowners from the tax, because of costs incurred by replacing appliances, installing water softeners and paying for their maintenance. In Clonmel, people living north of the Clonmel bypass have had to foot these costs for a number of years due to the hardness of their water.
“The facts show that is it good for your health, your bones. The World Health Organisation and the Irish Medical Council have endorsed it as being good for teeth and bones and while that is very good news, unfortunately what they fail to include in any literature is that it plays havoc with any electrical goods like washing machines, shower heads, dishwashers, and that has associated costs and they keep mounting,” said Cllr Ambrose.
“For those fortunate enough to be in a financial position to buy water softeners, it depends on the level of hard water in your area, and that determines the type of softener that you can avail of, which has more cost implications,” she said.
“I am asking for the support of my colleagues that similar to the property tax exemption, that same common courtesy is shown to people living in estates where there is hard water.”
Cllr Richie Molloy, who lives in an hardwater area himself and who has in the past also called for a grant system to be established to alleviate some of the costs, said that this is one issue that is constantly raised with elected representatives.
“The costs have been borne by a lot of people there, as they have had to purchase these softeners,” said Cllr Molloy.
“These softeners can cost up to €800 or €900 to purchase and then they have to be serviced at regular intervals and this is all extra cost on the consumer and I think the minister should definitely consider exempting people who are living in hard water areas because at the end of the day, the product doesn’t meet the consumers’ needs, OK health wise it is fine but it is certainly costing the consumer money to have water pumped into your house that will damage washing machines and dishwashers,” he said.
Cllr Niall Dennehy supported the motion saying that if people were given exemptions from the charge because they live in hard water areas, then the department would not be long about making the water suitable so the exemption wouldn’t be needed anymore. But he also said it was time to look into other options.
“What really needs to happen in Ireland is that we have to separate water for human consumption from water that is used for washing machines and flushing toilets. I think it’s time that rain water harvesting is introduced properly because as a council we are producing water at a certain standard for human consumption that doesn’t really need to be at that standard for other needs,” he said adding that from his own research rain water can be easily treated t a very high quality ane he would have no problem showering in it himself.