Water charges for group schemes and businesses
This document outlines how group schemes and businesses pay for their water.
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. The Department of Housing, Planning 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.
Commercial water charges
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. To apply for this allowance, contact your local authority.
The Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU), which is the economic regulator for the water sector, 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.
Flat-rate assessed commercial charges
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.
The CRU plans to 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.
The CRU will publish a timeline for establishing a new tariff framework by the end of 2014.
It has decided the following arrangements for mixed-use premises – that is, a property with a business and a household:
- That the domestic component of usage will be charged on the same assessed basis as other assessed domestic customers, with the same free allowances applying per household and per child, regardless of whether a mixed-use premises has a domestic meter. A separate account will be set up for the domestic water charges and the bills will issue separately.
- For metered non-domestic customers in mixed-use premises, that the non-domestic component of water usage will be charged at the relevant non-domestic rate on usage in excess of the current local authority domestic allowance
- For unmetered non-domestic customers in mixed-use premises, that the non-domestic component of water charges will be charged at the relevant non-domestic assessed charge, less the value of the current local authority domestic allowance
Group water schemes
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.
Charges for public group water schemes
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.
Charges for private group water schemes
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. Read more in our document on water quality.
Paying water charges - current system
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.
Where to apply
For information about the current water charges in your area, contact your local authority or group water scheme directly.
Irish Water Help Centre
Opening Hours: Mon-Sun 24 hours
Tel: +353 (1) 707 2828
Locall: 1890 278 278
Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government
Tel:(01) 888 2000
Locall:1890 202 021
Contact Form: http://www.housing.gov.ie/customer-service-feedback-form