‘You Don’t Miss the Water ’til the Well Runs Dry’: Factors Influencing the Failure of Domestic Water Charges in Ireland
Keywords:water usage, water charges, Ireland
Access to safe drinking water and wastewater services is essential for public health, and wellbeing, but attitudes differ regarding how such services should be funded. In Ireland, the 2014 introduction of a domestic-sector, consumption-based, charging regime was met with public protests, leading eventually to the suspension of charges in 2016 and a subsequent recommendation by a parliamentary committee that they be abolished. Given that some form of domestic water charges exists in all EU countries, and that charges may still be required to comply with EU legislation, it is important to understand why the Irish domestic-charging policy failed. This paper presents five factors that were arguably influential in generating the opposition to such charges: whether water services are perceived as public, private or social goods; levels of public trust in government; personal values; ‘framing’ of the water charges policy; and the timing of the introduction of charges.