Speaking during an Assembly budget debate on Monday, Chris Lyttle MLA said: “It is time political parties were honest with the public on water. The Minister for Regional Development says at least £750 million is needed to upgrade the Belfast Water system alone and yet draft budgets allocate only £450 million capital investment on water in 2015-21.
“The Department for Regional Development also says it is unlikely to be able to provide adequate funding for NI Water operating and capital costs.
“The European Commission commenced infraction proceedings against the UK Government for Ballycastle Waste Water Treatment Works and the Minister for Regional Development says that Belfast Harbour is at risk of failing to meet required water quality standards.
“The European Commission Water Framework Directive requires States to recover the costs of water services and by 2010 to have introduced water pricing policies that incentivise efficient water use. The Regional Development Minister has made clear that whilst Northern Ireland charges for non-domestic water use, the absence of domestic water charges is another European Commission infraction risk and yet he too has deferred any decision on this issue.
“The NI Executive subsidises the cost of water services around £250-£300 million per year which is lost to other important public expenditure like health, education, social welfare and the economy and yet the DUP Minister for Finance says his 2015/16 budget is about tough choices.
“Alliance believes that we must be open and honest about the need for serious consideration of the introduction of fair domestic water pricing based on the ability to pay if we are to meet the demands on this and other vital public services for everyone.”