Farm families and rural communities using their own wells or privately funded group water schemes can now be regarded as “lesser citizens” compared with their urban counterparts, according to ICMSA president John Comer.

Comer said that the Expert Commission on Water’s recommendations to the effect that the provision of water be paid by means of general taxation meant that those people already paying for their own water would now actually be paying “on the double”.

“Meanwhile, those who had never paid for their own water usage, and who may not be contributing through any form of direct taxation, escape any effective charge whatsoever.”

Comer accepted that the issue of water charges was hugely problematic.

But he said that farmers and rural communities could not help but notice that the issue of paying for water only became a crisis when people living in the cities, towns and suburbs were asked to pay for their water usage.

He said it was quite astonishing to note how few commentators seemed to object to the reality that would see rural dwellers and farmers with their own wells –  purchased and maintained privately – now having to pay increased taxation to fund the provision of water for the general population .

“The line of reasoning implicit in the Expert Commission’s recommendations was so manifestly unfair to those people already paying for their own water provision – in many cases for decades – that when finalising its position on water charges the Government will have to make financial provision for rural dwellers who are now, and have been for decades, paying for water.

“Such a provision will have to go beyond a grant to upgrade an individual well.

“The discrimination against rural dwellers that has been so readily apparent in the discussion of this matter since it was first raised must be addressed in fair and equitable fashion.”