The efficient supply of water to homes and industry is the responsibility of the local authorities. Funding for maintaining and improving the water supply infrastructure (pipes, filtration and disinfection systems) comes from the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government.
A new public water utility, Irish Water, is being set up for homes connected to a public water supply. A system of water metering will be introduced and the Commission for Energy Regulation will devise a scheme of water charges –see ‘Irish Water’ below.
Public water mains are administered and maintained by local authorities. This water is supplied to homes and businesses in urban areas. At present, charges are only levied on water supplied to commercial premises. The provision and upgrading of capital projects in water and wastewater services are funded by the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government. The local authority administers the actual building of approved water supply projects. Stringent water testing is carried out on all public waters by local authorities and the Health Service Executive (HSE) – see our document on water quality.
The new water utility, Irish Water, is to be responsible for providing water and wastewater services to homes and businesses connected to a public water supply. An interim board for Irish Water is to be appointed in 2012 pending its establishment on a statutory basis as an independent State-owned company within the Bord Gais group in 2013. A system of water metering is being introduced and the installation of meters is to start in 2012. Irish Water is to take over the operation of local authority water services on a phased basis, starting in 2015.
Many households that are not connected to a public water supply are served by group water schemes. These schemes are formed by 2 or more households coming together to provide their own common water supply. The group elects trustees to act on behalf of its members in all dealings with the local authority.
Usually, group schemes are established in areas where the local authority does not intend to install a water supply system in the near future, or at all. Group water schemes can get water supplies from the public mains, if possible, or a private source such as a well or lake. National reports on the quality of drinking water indicate that poorly treated or untreated private group water supplies are most at risk from pollution.
You still have to pay for your water if you belong to a private group water scheme, that is, if your water comes from a private source. However, local authorities do provide subsidies for each house in a group scheme – see ‘Rates’ below. Local authorities have the remit to test the water supply and ensure it is safe to drink but they are not responsible for maintaining group scheme pipes and filtration systems.
If the members of a group water scheme want the local authority to take over the running of the scheme, they must sign a waiver saying that they allow local authority personnel on their land to maintain pipes, etc. The group must also provide a map of the pipe system to the local authority. They must allow the local authority access to test pipes for leakage. If the local authority takes over the scheme, it is then responsible for maintaining the water system. However, if a group water scheme remains fully private, technical and grant assistance are available from the local authority for any upgrading works that may be needed.
If you are not part of a water supply scheme (public or group), you will have to consider boring your own well and drawing out groundwater to supply your needs. People have used water diviners to find out if there is groundwater beneath their land. However, even if a water diviner can tell you where to dig, he or she will not be able to tell you how deep you will have to drill or how much water you are likely to get. You can get this information from the Geological Survey of Ireland and it is usually free of charge.
To determine how much water you will need, you should allow 230 litres of water a day for each person in your household. The requirement for livestock varies from about 140 litres a day for a dairy cow to about 20 litres a day for 100 chickens. For more advice, you can contact your local authority.
When the well is drilled, you should seal it against pollution and make sure it is disinfected. After a few days, you should send a sample of the disinfected water to the Health Service Executive (HSE) to test whether it is up to drinking standards. If your water supply has been polluted by negligence, you should contact your local authority. It can prosecute those responsible under the Local Government (Water Pollution Act) 1977.
The National Federation of Group Water Schemes is a co-operative society, established to represent the interests of members of group water schemes. It also provides advisory, training, developmental and other services to scheme members.
The Water Services Act 2007 provides for the conservation of water where leakage occurs due to unrepaired pipes or equipment, or where poor management results in wastage or excessive consumption of water.
Regulations made under the Act (pdf) also apply to water restrictions in times of water shortages. A local authority can make an order to stop or restrict the use of water supplies for:
It is an offence not to comply with a water conservation order.
Under this scheme, if your house is more than 7 years old and not connected to either a public or a group scheme, you may be eligible for a grant (subject to some conditions). The grant is worth up to €2,031.58 (or 75% of the cost of the work, whichever is the lesser) and must be used to provide a new water supply or to upgrade an existing one. Only one grant per house will be allowed in any 10-year period. In order to qualify for the grant, the proposed work must cost more than €635. A local authority inspection will be carried out before any work starts.
The kind of work that would be eligible for the grant is the drilling of a new well or the provision of essential pumping or water filtration/disinfection equipment.
For more details and application forms, apply to your local authority.
Grants are available from the local authority if 2 or more householders get together to provide their homes and farms with a water system where none exists. A committee that represents the scheme members must propose the scheme and the local authority must approve it. The amount of grant payable depends on where the scheme is located. Check with your local authority for details of your area. Generally, a grant will cover 85% of the cost, with a limit of €6,475 for each house in the scheme. The group members must cover the balance, but costs can be kept down if members can do some of the work themselves.
An annual subsidy is available for the running costs of the group water scheme. This must be approved by the local authority. The amount of subsidy is 100% of the qualifying expenditure up to the following limits:
These procedures will be updated when the Water Services Act 2007 (pdf) is fully in force.
It is expected that a new system of water metering for homes will be introduced shortly, and that water charges will be based on the amount consumed above a free allocation.
You can find grant forms and water supply information on your local authority website. Further information about water supplies, charges and grants is available from the Water Section of your local authority.
Tel:(01) 888 2000
Locall:1890 202 021
Fax:(01) 888 2888
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.