I thank the Leas-Cheann Comhairle for affording me the opportunity to discuss the findings of the Comptroller and Auditor General's report on water leakage.
I do not intend to spend much time on this. In effect, the report suggested that in regard to water leakage, Ireland appears to have twice the OECD average of unaccounted-for water. It stated that overall the average percentage of unaccounted-for water was approximately 41.48% in 2009, a marginal increase on the 2008 figure of 41.2%.
I am a great believer in the levering of local charges and believe that local authorities should have the authority so to do. I am a tax and spend kind of guy. If one believes in public services, as I do, someone has to pay for them. I have no issue with the water charge per se. However, it would be very difficult for us as Deputies working in local areas or as national politicians to convince the public that a water levy or charge or water metering can be justified when the Comptroller and Auditor General's report indicates such a level of unaccounted-for water.
Various regions have issues with their water supply. We are well aware, as will be the Leas-Cheann Comhairle, about the issues in Galway city. Deputy Michael McNamara assures me that issues relating to the water supply in Ennis are as bad as they ever were. In my constituency there have been ongoing water pressure issues in the Killester-Donnycarney area.
It is imperative for us to convince those who will be charged this levy that finances accrued from it will be put back into the water system in order that they may have confidence in it. I do not find it reasonable that anyone should expect we can front-load that investment before such a levy is in place, but we must ensure the public sees the connection between the charge and the improvement in the service. If one lives in an area where, as has happened in recent years, there have been annual major water shortages because of the poor water infrastructure in the city, or if one lives in an area where cryptosporidium dances through one's tap on a regular basis, or there is discoloration or whatever, it is very difficult for a public representative to make that connection, especially when people see figures such as these. We must convince the public that we can ring-fence these moneys for the improvement of the water service.