COUNTER-REFORMATION

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Ireland and India both announced public consultation phases ahead of sweeping water reform packages this month.

 In many ways, the countries could not be more different, although their water sectors are both desperately in need of a shot in the arm. Ireland’s stubborn refusal to introduce domestic water charges has resulted in a €500 million investment backlog and a lack of private money f lowing into the sector. Tariff reform is dependent on an ambitious metering roll-out, which will involve a million units, 200 separate contractors, and three years of chaos on the data reconciliation front.

* Irish Water, the new entity which will assume ownership of all the water and wastewater assets currently held by Irish local authorities, expects to become selffunding by 2018, thanks to the introduction of domestic water tariffs and frequent visits to the capital markets. With Ireland currently in junk territory as far as credit ratings go, the new water body will have to pay a hefty premium to access wholesale funding. The republic’s credit standing also raises the question of whether it will be able to attract private capital to fund new infrastructure projects.

* India, meanwhile, appears to be less keen to attract private capital, although it is promising private water companies a more prominent role in the running of municipal water systems. New plants will be procured under the design-build-operate model, and Mumbai is already showing the way, with a trio of large wastewater treatment facilities currently in the tendering phase.

* Like Ireland, India will base its tariff reform on a widespread metering programme. The trouble is, no one knows the exact extent of metering penetration in India, with estimates ranging from 14% up to 30%. The fragmented nature of water services administration in India means that few believe the reform package will pass in its current form.