Marian Harkin, MEP, invited ‘Our Water’ group to explore and assess possibilities of saving Ireland's endangered European 9.4 Domestic Water Charges exemption.

Citizens from around the country have formed a group called ‘Our Water’.   Representatives of the group held a meeting in Letterkenny, Co Donegal,  on February 9th, 2018 with MEP Marian Harkin. 

Ms Harkin agreed to lend her full support to the group.

The Our Water group insist that the Irish Government’s failure to renew Ireland's 9.4 Exemption will be disastrous for the people and it will mean a return to 1) Water Metering  2) Water Billing and  3) The possibility of Water Privatisation.

Michael Mooney, spokesperson for ‘Our Water’ said “Irish people haven't given up their fight, only our politicians have done that. We demand that the government protect the peoples’ interests and renew and maintain our 9.4 Exemption.  If they don’t, our right to and control of this invaluable resource, will be handed over to Brussels and private interests."

Members of the Our Water’ group meeting with MEP Marian Harkin.   L to R; Brendan Kelly, Enda Craig, Marian Harkin, Mark McAuley, James Quigley and Michael Mooney

Members of the Our Water’ group meeting with MEP Marian Harkin.   L to R; Brendan Kelly, Enda Craig, Marian Harkin, Mark McAuley, James Quigley and Michael Mooney

Ms Harkin  agreed to help the group explore the possibilities of saving the 9.4 Exemption as contained in the Water Framework Directive, 2000/60/EC.

The  Exemption  allows Ireland to opt out of full cost recovery of domestic charges if the Government so wish.  Ireland is now on the brink of doing away with it forever and if this happens the Irish Government will be responsible. This point was emphasised by Ms Harkin at the meeting when she said that if this clause is not invoked in the next River Basin Management Plan (RBMP)  then the Irish Government will hand power to Brussels who will determine our domestic funding and infrastructure. The next draft RBMP can be viewed on DHPLG website and is due to be submitted to Brussels in April 2018.  Unfortunately the public will not have the opportunity to view the final plan until it is submitted to Brussels. 

By that stage it could be too late.

Our Water facebook page:

Irish Sleepwalking Down the Road to Full Water Charges

The political class know exactly what it’s about. The majority of Irish citizens haven’t a clue. The result could be that total control over our water will be handed over to Brussels bureaucrats. It all hinges on a little subsection of a European Directive and the willingness of our government to use it. The question is who's going to champion the Irish cause?

by James Quigley


The subsection is 9.4 of the Water Framework Directive 2000 (WFD). This simply says member states shall not be in breach of the directive if they decide not to apply full provisions for a given water-use and they shall report the reasons in their River Basin Management Plans (RBMP).

This might not sound much but in reality it is massive. It allows member states to regulate it’s water according to established practices, as long as it does not ″compromise the purposes and the achievement of the objectives of the Directive″. Brussels can not remove this clause but Ireland can give it away and everything is pointing in that direction.

Each member country of the EU is obliged by the WFD to implement three River Basin Management Plans for structuring it’s water resources. By the end of the third, supposedly 2027, all members states should be in full compliance. Ireland, however, is three years late with their second RBMP with it’s draft plan just put up on the DHPLG website. It is open for submissions until February 28th.

According to a department information officer Ireland’s finalised plan will be published on April 2018, the same day that it is sent to the EU Commission. It will then be subject to 3 month’s of negotiations where the Irish Government must supply all supporting documentation. However there is speculation that these negotiations could run on much longer and then they could be affected by further rumours of a total revamp of the Water Framework Directive itself later on this year.

Should the unsuspecting public be wary?

The following is an extract of the draft River Basin Management Plan, page 20.  I look upon the explanation of the 2010 plan wrong.  It is a subjective one that suits their purpose but it does not give the full facts. Bear in mind that because they say something, it does not necessarily means it is fact. You might see what they are trying to do when you read the second part of the paragraph i.e. our ‘established practice’ is gone, full steam ahead.

″The first cycle of river basin management plans was completed in 2010. Ireland signaled an intention to introduce water charges and did not avail of the exemption outlined in article 9(4) of the WFD. In line with article 9(2) of the WFD, we will be required in the final river basin management plan for 2018- 2021 to set out our approach for the cost recovery of water services based on the economic analysis conducted according to Annex III, the contribution of the different water users to cost recovery and how this will contribute to achieving the environmental objectives of the Directive.″

Coupled with some fine print in the revised Water Services Act 2017, particular Section 9, that allows for CER (energy regulator) to do some fine adjustments to figures on ‘threshold amounts’ of  domestic water, the Irish Public should be worried.  That’s a nice way of saying; whittling away at the water basic allowances.

What can we do?

I like the idea of people arming themselves with facts, questioning everything and not listening to what they are told by politicians and media alike, no matter who they are. I also like the idea of public empowerment, helping themselves, but unfortunately the issue of water charges has been given over to the political establishment where it is now subject to legal interpretations.

The public must demand that politicians and groups who made commitments against water charges, whether it is Right2Water or Fianna Fáil, put their money where their mouths are. They have to question the legality of this draft River Basin Management Plan. If their integrity can be respected they must not accept what seems to be happening to the principle of Ireland's  ‘Established Practice’.  They must stand up to EU interference and threats. 

Fianna Fáil has a particular responsibility in this issue since they are in a position of power because of it’s ″Confidence and Supply″ arrangement with the present Government. 

The public should contact all TDs, even attend their constituency clinics and demand that they do everything in their power to protect Ireland’s ‘Established Practice’,   They must question the published draft RBMP and at least make sure that the 9.4 section of the Water Framework Directive is invoked.


WQ 3/03 European Communities (Water Policy) Regulations 2003

This is a summary letter to all local authorities in Ireland.  It is a good explanation on how Ireland was going to structure it water infrastructure and achieve the goals as set down in the European Water Framework Directive 2000.  Fianna Fáil was the main party in Government from the negotiations of the WFD from 1998-2000 and it's transposition into Irish law in 2003.  Page 5 clearly outlines Ireland's negotiated 'Established Practice' principle and the Article 9.4 which allows us an exemption from domestic water charges.

Also of interest in page 5, and possibly for another article, is the mention of 'Reserved Function'.  To our knowledge this explains that local authorities have powers under the act to set up and run River Basin District and to undertake River Basin Management Plans.  If this is the case then all local authorities including all local county councillors should have been in a position to know precisely what was going on.

Page 5 or WQ 3/03

Page 5 or WQ 3/03

Page 5 or WQ 3/03

Page 5 or WQ 3/03

Martin Cullen, ex Fianna Fáil Minister

Martin Cullen, ex Fianna Fáil Minister

The full pdf letter dated 23rd December 2003 was circulated by the Water Quality Section of the Department of the Environment to all local authorities in Ireland and to the Director of Environmental Service.  It explains the Water Framework Directive 2000-60-EC and it's transposition into Irish law as the European Communities (Water Policy) Regulations 2003 (S.I No. 722), signed by the Minister   for Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Martin Cullen, Fianna Fáil on 22nd December, 2003.