Friday, 7 January 2011

Water, water everywhere?

THEY say that Eskimos have multiple words to describe snow: equally we in Northern Ireland use many a words to describe rain.

Phrases include: It’s fair belting it down; ach it’s only a wee bit of drizzle; soakin’ ye out; cats and dogs coming down; and so on and so on.

Which, in other words, is to say that we have rarely had a problem with enough water falling from the sky to fill our kettles…?

So with the saga of the water now set to continue to the end of February, it would be an inopportune time to take a look at the debacle that left thousands of homes without water before the reviews are complete.

Never stopped us before nor anyone else in Norn Iron…

As we shiver, once again this weekend, the hand wringing and blame game goes on. Never has so much been owed by so few radio broadcasters to so many politicians.

Let’s face it, Christmas is a pretty slow time on newsdesks and call-in shows; as they struggle to fill schedules – so the water crisis came along as a blessing for sober-voiced presenters and shrieking call-in hosts.

And politicians – who otherwise would have been starved of the oxygen of hyped publicity – where quick to jump into the fray. To summarise – NI Water was the bête noire of choice.

Following that we had the joy of Sinn Féin saying its not our fault, DUP saying maybe it just was and the SDLP saying yer all to blame! UUP, Alliance and others struggled to force their way into the debate, but maybe we just weren’t listening that closely as our eyes glazed over as we queued for a measly container of life giving elixir...and then went from the bar to collect some water.

Now there is to be an investigation…sorry two investigations. One to look at NI Water and one to look into the ‘”broader governance issues” (i.e. the Department and Minister’s role in the fiasco), and in typical ‘Norn Iron’ political fashion it took the Executive late into the night to come up with that genius plan.

Bubbling below the reservoir of acrimony’s surface is, of course, the issue of water charges. We have a historically rubbish water infrastructure, and whose fault that is ranges variously depending on who you listen to.

Privatisation has been touted before, as one way to solve this – and much has been made about investment in England, without close examination of the issues (the perfect monopoly, the impact on a variety of households etc etc).

Others say that bringing it back into the Executive house would solve the issue – like reverting back to the hugely inefficient Water Service that NIW replaced is going to put things right!

With an election coming down the tracks fast , no politician is going to raise his or her head above the parapet to make any sort of decision.

So, we wait until February for the reviews’ conclusions to come down just before Purdah silences civil servants.

In the meantime we suggest that NI Water has a wee look at the best way to tell us lowly householders and business owners what lies ahead in the next cold snap. Oh, and we can probably look forward to a hosepipe ban in the summer!

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