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Patrick Bresnihan and Arielle Hesse

This chapter examines community enterprises to reframe water politics in Ireland. In 2014, Ireland controversially transferred responsibility for public water delivery to Irish Water Ltd., a semi-state water utility, and introduced domestic water charges and metering to incentivize conservation and raise revenue for needed infrastructural upgrades. Controversy hinged on issues of public versus private funding as widespread opposition saw meters and charges as an extension of austerity policies that had followed the 2008 financial collapse. While meters and charges were reversed, the debate overlooked the experiences of approximately 400 community-managed rural water suppliers that supply roughly seven per cent of Ireland’s drinking water. These community enterprises, Group Water Schemes (GWS), offer a counterpoint to dominant water politics. Examining GWS’ relationships to the state, their communities, and their waters, complicates divisions of public and private, state and non-state, and reframes Irish water politics to open up new sites of political intervention and amplification.