A woman participated in a peaceful water protest in Jobstown, Co. Dublin on Saturday.Photocall

The water controversy here has now become ridiculous, with far too many people who should know better behaving like they have water on the brain.

We have much more important things that people here should be concerned about now, but those issues have been drowned out in the flood of hysteria about water charges over the last month or two.

Last week the government finally unveiled its revised structure for the charges, cutting them to a level that 90 percent of people here can easily afford. They also put off the start date for the charges by a few months to give people more time to adjust. And there are a lot of ways being provided for easy payment.

Although water use will be metered, there will be two maximum rates of annual charges – €60 for a one-adult household and €160 for all other households. These capped figures apply no matter how much water a household uses.

They take account of a €100 reduction in the bill through a new Water Support Services Grant from the government to all households. Homes with a meter installed will be able to reduce their bills further if the value of water used is lower than the cap.

To get the new grant, which will be paid next September, households will have to register with Irish Water, the new and much despised authority. The €60 and €160 caps are to stay in place until 2019.

What all this means is that the new charges will not really pose a problem for the vast majority of people here. Obviously no one likes paying more tax.

But paying the water charge for a month will cost people about the same as a single pint of Guinness. Or paying it for two months will cost about the same as a cheap bottle of wine. It may require a small adjustment in behavior, but it's doable.

So let's get the hysteria in perspective. And of course that's without mentioning things like cable TV subscriptions or mobile phone contracts which cost a large multiple of the annual water charge.

Despite this reality, there are still a significant number of people here who are saying that they will never pay water charges, either because they oppose them on principle or because they can't afford them.

The first group say that "water is a human right" and therefore must be free. This emotive phrase sounds good but means little or nothing. It conjures up images of people here going thirsty or not being able to wash, both of which are ridiculous.

Surely you would give up your Sky TV before you would die of thirst? Or get a cheap mobile phone instead of your smartphone to save enough to have as many showers as you like every week?

So a lot of the hysteria we are hearing is just that: hysteria. For a start, the government has now made it clear that those who refuse to pay will not be cut off or have their pressure reduced to a trickle, which had been threatened initially. Instead accumulated unpaid charges will be attached to the home and will have to be paid when the home is sold.

The "human right" argument also dodges the fact that treated water costs money to produce and that has to be funded. So if someone decides not to pay, someone else will have to pick up the bill. What about their human right not to be fleeced?

The refusal to pay on principle also dodges the fact that treated water provision and waste water disposal in Ireland, which have been underfunded for decades, now need massive investment to bring them up to an acceptable standard.

There are towns all over Ireland where untreated waste water, including half treated sewage, is released into local rivers and the sea. One example featured on TV last week is the picturesque town of Arklow in Wicklow, the county known as the Garden of Ireland. It has about 20 outlet pipes discharging raw sewage and other waste water into the once beautiful Avoca River which is now so polluted it is avoided by local people.

There are many other towns like Arklow around the country, including around 30 coastal towns which have no sewage treatment plants. Forty shades of green indeed, especially on hot summer days.

Our problem is not just dealing with waste water. The antiquated pipes in Dublin lose over 40 percent of treated water before it ever gets to household taps. There are similar problems all over the country, with treated water being lost and sewage plants being inadequate.

Because water has, up to now, been the responsibility of over 30 local councils, investment to update services has not been adequate or coordinated. One of the main reasons for setting up the new Irish Water authority was to sort out this mess on a national basis, borrowing the €10 to €15 billion that is needed for investment in water infrastructure on the markets and funding repayments on that through water charges.

Doing it that way means the state does not have the huge cost involved on its books and so can keep to its deficit reduction targets, a vital factor in our economic recovery.

The other reason some people are refusing to pay on principle is that they regard the new charges as double taxation.

Superficially, there is some merit to this argument since when the old rates (local taxes) which used to fund water and other local services were abolished back in the 1970s, the cost was transferred to central government which raised sales taxes and motor taxes to compensate. Funding water became part of general taxation, with the state passing back tax revenue to local councils to pay for water services.

Unsurprisingly, this became blurred over time, since general tax revenue is used for everything. Other priorities emerged, like roads and schools.

As a result local councils were left short of funds and never had adequate funds to invest in water. And the problem became acute here in the last two decades as we went through the boom and experienced high population growth and rapid economic expansion, both of which require extra water services.

So it is true that back in the late 1970s general taxation was increased to pay for water services and water has been funded in that way ever since (currently about one billion a year). But the funding has always been minimal. Tax revenue which should have been spent on upgrading water services was diverted into other things that the state pays for and which voters wanted.

Those who don't want to pay the new water charge on the basis of "double taxation" conveniently forget about this. The reality is that the money they are talking about has been spent on other state services for people. And the reality now is that if we want decent water services in the future we are going to have to fund them through extra taxation.

The fairest way of doing this is by metering water use in every household and charging on the basis of the amount of water used. So the new Irish Water authority has been installing meters all over the country. That work is progressing rapidly but will take another few years to complete.

Irish Water is also mandated to upgrade water services, provide more water treatment, replace leaking pipes, expand sewage treatment and so on. For the first time, water services here will be planned and organized on a national level instead of on a local council level.

All of that makes sense. But the government has failed to explain this to voters who are already reeling from all the extra taxes that have been implemented as part of the austerity program after our economic crash.

The water charge, on top of the recently introduced property tax, is the straw that has finally broken the camel's back for some taxpayers.

The protests are more intense and the opposition is more vocal in poorer areas where a high number of people are on welfare (as in the area where the deputy leader Joan Burton was trapped in her car recently by protestors). Here the constant cry is that people are unable to pay because they don't have the money.

But the reality is that even in these areas it's a matter of choice. We have the highest welfare payments in Europe, and a high proportion of the homes in these areas have cable TV subscriptions and the people in the homes have nice phones.

No one is saying they should not have those things. But we need to keep this in perspective. Even in these poorer areas, it's a question of paying for an extra pint a month or paying for the water.

Whether the new deal on water announced by the government last week is going to be enough to stem the tide of protests and opposition will become clearer in the next week or two. There was similar outrage when the property tax was introduced a year ago, but that has now calmed down.

This is a hard one to call because it's all become so emotional. The next big protest marches have been called for December 10 and the turnout that day will be an indication of whether the government is still in hot water or not.