Water metering the only fair way, says MLA Gardiner

IT would cost in the region of £106m to install water meters in every home in Northern Ireland, the Ulster Unionist Assembly Member of Upper Bann, Sam Gardiner, has been told.

Mr Gardiner said he requested the figure from the Regional Development Minister, Conor Murphy, due to concerns that the Northern Ireland Assembly may be eventually “forced down the road” of water charges.

“Though I am opposed to water charges, because I believe we are paying for them in the rates already, I am concerned that the Executive may be forced to eventually go down that road,” said Mr Gardiner. “This is because of the weaknesses in the infrastructure of our water system due to a long-term lack of investment which was exposed in the two recent cold spells at the end of 2010.

He said he had been told by the Minister that it would cost £106m to install the water meteres - the equivalent of about half of the first year’s revenue if water charges were introduced.

“I want it understood that if the Executive is forced down this road, that the only fair way to do this would be by metering,” said Mr Gardiner. “We cannot have a situation developing where elderly people on fixed incomes and often declining incomes have to pay the same as a large familiy with one or even two salaries coming in.

“They do not use the same amount of water and they should not have to pay the same. Water metering would at least be accurate and transparent if the doomsday situation of water charges were forced on the Executive.”

The MLA also claimed metres typically reduce water consumption by 10 per cent because householders become more aware of waste.

“If we were to introduce metres, we could expect to offset the level of water lost though leakages by another 10 per cent - that is by the equivalent of 18 million litres a day, bringing it below the economic level for leakages which I believe is set at 165 million litres a day in the province. That is sort of saving which cannot be ignored,” he added.