A new system of domestic water charges is being introduced for homes that are connected to a public water supply. The Commission for Energy Regulation will devise the scheme of water charges. Irish Water, the new national water services authority, will administer the charges. Water meters are being installed at present and the first bills for domestic water will issue from January 2015 in respect of the last quarter of 2014.
The new system is being brought into effect under the Water Services Act 2013 and the Water Services (No. 2) Act 2013. Further information is available on www.water.ie, from the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government, and in this press release.
The Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) published 3 draft documents on 17 April 2014 for public consultation. The documents cover domestic water tariff principles and proposals; non-domestic tariff proposals; and the draft handbook for customers of Irish water. They are available on the CER’s website cer.ie and the consultations closed on 16 May 2014. The CER will hold further consultations about issues concerning water charges in the coming months.
The Government made a number of decisions on 6 May 2014 in relation to water charges and free allowances. You can read the press release on environ.ie, along with a set of Frequently Asked Questions (pdf).
On 2 July 2014, the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government issued a policy direction (pdf) to the CER on water charges, following a public consultation. The Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government has published a summary (pdf) of issues raised during the public consultation and the Department’s responses to each.
The CER expects to make a final decision on the level of water charges in September 2014.
Read more about current developments in this response to questions in the Dáil.
The rest of this document is in 2 sections.
This section provides currently available answers to questions about the new system of domestic water charges being introduced in 2014. It draws on the press release and Frequently Asked Questions (pdf) published on 6 May 2014, the Minister’s policy direction (pdf) of 2 July 2014 and his response to questions in the Dáil on 8 July 2014, as well as information published by Irish Water. It will continue to be updated as more details become available.
Who will be liable to pay for domestic water?
The occupier of the property that gets water and/or wastewater services from Irish Water will be liable to pay domestic water charges. If you own a property, you will be presumed to be the occupier, unless it is proven otherwise. Owners of more than one dwelling will have to pay water charges for each dwelling. There will be interaction between Irish Water and customers in advance of customer billing, to ascertain certain customer information.
If your water comes from a private well or a group water scheme and you have a private wastewater treatment system (such as a septic tank) you will not be regarded as a customer of Irish Water and will not have to pay domestic water charges.
The following table shows which types of system will and will not be subject to domestic water charges:
|Water supplier||Waste water||Charged for domestic water?|
|Public mains||Public sewer||Yes|
|Public mains||Own treatment (septic tank or wastewater treatment system)||Yes|
|Group water scheme||Public sewer||Yes|
|Group water scheme||Own treatment||No|
|Private well||Public sewer||Yes|
|Private well||Own treatment||No|
How much will each household be charged for domestic water?
The estimated average is €240 per year at present. The Commission for Energy Regulation (CER), which is the economic regulator for Irish Water, is expected to make a final decision on the level of domestic water charges in September 2014, following a public consultation process.
The Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government has issued a policy direction (pdf) to the CER to ensure that these rates will be fixed for 2015 and 2016.
How will domestic water charges be calculated?
There will be no standing charge in respect of principal residences, but a minimum charge may apply to second homes – this will be a matter for the CER .
Charges will be based on the household’s metered usage after free allowances are taken into account.
The free allowances will be 30,000 litres per household, with an extra allowance of up to 38,000 litres per child under age 18. The amount to be allowed per child will be verified through actual consumption data from metering.
Charges will be capped for people whose medical condition requires extra water usage – this will include people who are on kidney dialysis at home. Other qualifying conditions will be determined by the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government in consultation with the Minister for Health.
If your meter hasn’t been installed by the time metering starts, your bill will be based on standard assessed usage, which will be a close proxy for metered usage and primarily based on occupancy. The Minister has directed the CER to ensure that rebates will be available for households whose actual usage is shown to be lower (above a certain threshold) when they do get a meter.
The charging and subvention system for group water schemes will be adjusted to align it with the free allowances for people on public water supplies.
When will billing start?
The first bills will issue in the first quarter of 2015, based on charging from October 2014.
I’m worried that my meter won’t be installed by then.
Contact Irish Water (see Where to apply below) to check the timetable for installation in your area.
If you don’t have a meter in time, your usage will be assessed using a proxy for metered usage, primarily based on occupancy. The Minister has directed the CER to ensure that rebates are available for households whose eventual metered usage proves to be lower (above a certain threshold) than the assessed amount.
How can I measure my water usage, check for hidden leaks, and reduce my usage?
The water meters will be accessible for householders to check. You can monitor your usage by checking the meter regularly – estimated average usage per person in Ireland is 145 litres per day.
You can identify leaks by checking the meter before and after a period when the water system isn’t being used – for example, if you are away for the weekend. Notify Irish Water if you find a leak. There will be a 'free first fix' scheme for leaks on the customer side of the meter – Irish Water will be announcing details shortly.
Where/how will the meter be installed, will I have access to it and how will it be read?
Irish Water is installing meters at present (through contractors).
Your meter will be placed in a meter box, which will be fitted underground on public land.
You will be able to access the meter to check your usage (see Question F above). The meters are fitted with Automated Meter Reading (AMR) technology so that readings can be taken automatically.
Can I pay the bill in instalments?
Irish Water plans to offer a range of payment methods, including an easy payment option for regular payments of €10 or more.
What if my supply or quality is poor?
The Minister has directed the economic regulator (CER) to ensure that Irish Water takes account of the quality of services when applying water charges.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which is the environmental regulator of Irish Water, will enforce its adherence to relevant environmental legislation.
What about people on social welfare and low incomes?
You may qualify for assistance under the Household Benefits Package, which will be extended to assist with water costs. The value of this additional benefit will be approximately €100 a year to each recipient, beginning in 2015. The Money Advice and Budgeting Service (MABS) can help with budgeting in general. Irish Water will offer an easy payment option for regular payments of €10 or more, so payments can be spread throughout the year.
The Exceptional Needs Payment is available to people experiencing severe financial difficulties.
What if I don’t pay my domestic water bill?
Irish Water will offer easy payment options (see Question H above) but if you don’t pay your bills it can reduce your water supply. However, you will not be cut off completely.
Free allowances (see Question C above) will only be provided to people who pay charges in a timely manner.
I use a lot of water because of my medical condition. Will I have to pay for this extra water?
Charges will be capped for people whose medical condition requires extra water usage – this will include people who are on kidney dialysis at home. The Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government will determine other qualifying conditions in consultation with the Minister for Health.
We run a small shop and we live on the premises. How will our private water usage be charged?
The CER will decide how situations like yours will be handled, following public consultation on the tariff structure for non-domestic water. It is envisaged that its decision will be guided by the principle of equity for all customers with a domestic supply.
Who does what as regards domestic water charges, how are decisions made and what happens next?
Irish Water will administer the domestic water charging system. There will be interaction between Irish Water and customers in advance of customer billing, to ascertain certain customer information.
The economic regulator (CER) will approve water charges plans (including the domestic water charges rate) and set codes of practice for Irish Water.
The Minister may give CER directions of a general policy nature, as in the policy direction (pdf) of 2 July 2014 mentioned above..
The CER will continue its programme of public consultations. Consultation on tariffs began in April 2014. It is expected that the tariff will be determined in September 2014 and tariffs will be fixed until the end of 2016.
Decisions on levels of water charge after 2016 will be made by the CER in the context of Government policy, the cost of water services and investment requirements.
Commercial water charges are levied on all businesses and must be paid to the local authority.
If you are in a group water scheme, you may have to pay a certain amount for your domestic water. Following the introduction of domestic water charges, the current State subvention of group water schemes will be adjusted to align it with the free allowance approach for households on public water supplies, in order to ensure fair and equitable treatment for households using group scheme services. The Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government will consult with the National Federation of Group Water Schemes on arrangements for the group water sector.
Revenue from water charges is used to maintain and improve the water and wastewater systems.
Local authorities are required to recover the cost of providing water services from the users of these services, with the exception of households using the services for domestic purposes (but see New system above). However, the CER will make a determination on non-domestic tariff structures, including mixed-use premises (a property with a business and a household) in 2014 and is expected to apply the principle of equity for all customers with a domestic supply. This is in accordance with the ‘polluter pays’ principle and the requirements of Article 9 of the EU Water Framework Directive.
All commercial organisations must pay water charges if water is being supplied for their use. Hospitals, sanatoriums, homes for people with mental or physical disabilities, maternity homes, convalescent homes, laboratories, clinics, health centres, schools and clubs also pay water charges. There are two types of commercial water charges. You can either pay a flat rate or your water usage can be monitored using a meter.
A metered account involves a meter being fitted to monitor commercial water usage. Commercial metered accounts are subject to a minimum charge per year as well as a rental charge for the meter itself. The rental charge is usually paid on a quarterly basis. The minimum charge can vary in different local authority areas.
A domestic allowance is available where the water supply is used jointly for domestic and commercial use. The domestic allowance can vary between local authorities. The Department of Environment, Community and Local Government Circular WSP5/06 (pdf) states that the domestic allowance should be 225 cubic metres per year, but local authorities may allocate lower or higher domestic allowances. To apply for this allowance, contact your local authority.
The CER will make a determination on non-domestic tariff structures, including mixed-use premises (a property with a business and a household) in 2014 and is expected to apply the principle of equity for all customers with a domestic supply.
This flat-rate charge is payable to the local authority. The rate is calculated by estimating how much water (and waste water) your business uses. The volume of water and waste water will differ, depending on the type of business and the number of employees. For example, a newsagent will be charged less than a hairdresser because it uses less water. There is no minimum charge set down in legislation. Each local authority can set its own rates, which are reviewed every year. Some local authorities set fixed water and wastewater tariffs that apply to all unmetered commercial properties.
Group water schemes operate in rural areas, outside the scope of urban public mains systems. They can be public or private, depending on whether the water comes from the public mains or a private source. All group schemes are fitted with a water meter so the local authority can monitor the amount of water used. Each household gets a domestic allowance of 225 cubic metres. Domestic users rarely exceed this amount. If they do, the group scheme is charged as a whole, as the meter monitors the water use of the whole scheme. The meter is checked on a quarterly basis and the allowances for domestic users are deducted. The remainder is charged at a set rate per cubic metre. This rate varies from one local authority to another.
Group scheme members are entitled to a subsidy from the local authority. The members of the scheme must meet any additional costs, such as filtration systems and disinfection.
Commercial premises (like farms or other rural businesses) that are members of group schemes are treated differently from private homes. They get a domestic allowance to cover their domestic water usage. In most cases, they have a water meter to monitor the amount used. The standard domestic allowance is then deducted from the total to determine how much water was used by the business. Alternatively, a fixed rate could be agreed and the business owner pays this amount. If the business owner is in a private group scheme, the amount to be paid must be decided by the other members and the trustees. If the owner is in a public scheme, it is the responsibility of the local authority to monitor the water usage and charge the owner accordingly.
As a member of a public group scheme, you get your water from the public mains system. If you are a domestic user, you do not have to pay water charges. Commercial users like farms or businesses have to pay for the water they use in the running of their businesses. Their water use is monitored and the local authority charges them the set commercial rate.
Domestic users have to pay for water if they are in a private group scheme, where water comes from a private source such as a well or lake. Local authorities provide a subsidy for each house in a private group scheme just as they do for public scheme members. However, the subsidy for a private group scheme is higher to reflect the increased costs associated with a private water supply, such as filtration and disinfection costs. Commercial water users who are members of a private scheme can either have a meter fixed to their premises to monitor their water usage or they can agree a fixed rate with other group members.
If you sink your own well, you are not liable for water charges. You are entitled to a grant for the drilling of the well. However, the grant may not cover the full costs of the drilling or any further costs you may run into, for example, filtration. Your water must be tested for pollutants before you can use it.
All commercial premises, unless a personal hardship waiver applies, must pay their water charges. If you do not pay, the local authority can take you to the District Court to recover the charges from you. Alternatively, it can disconnect your water supply. This is rarely done because of implications for health and safety.
Water that is supplied on a fixed-rate basis must be paid for in advance. The charges are broken into 2 equal instalments, due on 1 April and 1 October each year. If the charges are not paid within 2 months, the local authority can take the consumer to court to recover them.
If the charges remain unpaid after 2 months, the local authority can discontinue the water supply to the premises. The cost of disconnection can be awarded to the local authority by a District Court. The cost of reconnection is the responsibility of the user.
Revenue collectors collect water charges on behalf of the local authorities, which act as agents for Irish Water. Payments can be made directly to the revenue collector or to the local authority in person, by post, by standing order, bank giro or direct debit.
If you are unable to pay your water charges, you can apply to the local authority for a waiver. Application forms are available from your local authority.
Group water schemes are responsible for monitoring themselves. Members of group schemes who do not pay their share of the maintenance costs must be dealt with by the group and its trustees. The local authority cannot get involved as it has no authority over the scheme. It is up to the members and trustees of group schemes to decide who should pay what and the grounds on which charges can be waived or reduced.
If you are in a private group scheme, you must discuss any difficulties regarding payment with the trustees of the group.
For information about the current water charges in your area, contact your local authority directly.
Tel:(01) 888 2000
Locall:1890 202 021
Fax:(01) 888 2888
For queries about the new domestic water charging system, you can contact Irish Water’s Help Centre here.
Opening Hours: Mon-Fri 8 am - 8 pm, Sat 9 am - 5.30 pm
Tel: (01) 707 2828
Locall: 1890 278 278
If you have a question relating to this topic you can contact the Citizens Information Phone Service on 0761 07 4000 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 8pm) or you can visit your local Citizens Information Centre.