One trade union says moving workers from local authorities to work directly for Irish Water would be an 'existential crisis'.
It comes as four unions, representing more than 3,000 local authority workers, have taken issue with proposals that staff at drinking water plants should work directly for the water utility.
Workers at more than 800 water plants across the country are employed by local authorities, while Irish Water has responsibility for running the plants.
Adrian Kane is a divisional organiser at SIPTU and told Newstalk Breakfast there is an issue here around local government.
"I think most people believe in the concept of local democracy and local government - if you start a conversation in terms of the provision of a service, there's an argument always for a centralised service.
"But I think if you begin the argument in terms of democracy, local government being accessible to people, you start with strong local government.
"Really that's what the discussion and what the division is".
He says Ireland is lacking in local governance, with just 8% of spending through local authorities here - compared to an EU average of over 20%.
"There's a role for Irish Water in this, but we believe that there's also a role for local authorities in the delivery of water services as well".
But he denies there is a need for a water utility to run the plants.
"In terms of why that took place over the last 100 years and more, was a chronic under-investment in the system.
"I'm not so sure in terms of cause and effect here: the issue was under-investment, the issue was not having - pardon the pun - a stream of revenue directed towards water.
"That was the issue."
And he says there are also issues around the water utility itself.
"I think in terms of the evolution of Irish Water, it was probably the most contested act by a government over the last 50 or 60 years.
"And if you look at why it was put in place, in terms of it being a Fine Gael initiative, was essentially a precursor to privatisation.
"It's about four things really... there are industrial relations issues, there's the issue about a referendum - which the previous government had given a commitment to introduce - there's the issue of governance of Irish Water and what it actually is, which still has to be settled.
"And there's also the issue about the future of local authorities.
"If you were to transfer that level of staff, it would be a existential crisis for local authorities".