Farmers face sweeping rise in water charges.

Bills could surpass thousands of euro.

Sligo News File

A nearly 80% price increase is expected to be announced for water supplies to farms.

Holdings likely to be hammered by the rise in levies include herd owners involved in dairying and livestock.

The new rates come as sectors of the farming industry, especially livestock have seen their incomes crash and sales become increasingly difficult owing to government-imposed Covid-19 restrictions on marts.

Charges for domestic usage have been abandoned after powerful campaigns in which tens of thousands of people mounted protest after protest against the levies.

But there seemed to be a reluctance of some in farming organization circles to defy the imposition of charges for water on farm holdings, leaving government free to consider farms as water taxable operations.

Now, it looks that even uneconomic farming enterprises will fall to be billed at rates that may run to thousands of euros annually, depending on stocking levels. Dairying activities, where water usage is high owing to the scale of environmental regulations to which they’re subject, will be particularly hurt.

Irish Water, the national utility responsible for the control and management of the country’s public water operations, has reportedly indicated that the new rates will take effect from as soon as the beginning of May 2020.

It’s not clear whether water piped to a dwelling and thereafter directly from the dwelling to a landholding can be classified such that a charge may be made for the water used in connection with the land. Advice obtained from an eminent senior constitutional expert appeared to suggest that a pipe extending from the house to the land continues to exist as a domestic connection. As of now, charges for domestic water usage no longer apply.

Those interested in querying the issue may wish to contact the Sligo Farming Platform, the local farm organization which first sought the opinion of senior counsel on the issue.