Irish Water is responsible for the efficient supply of water to homes and businesses. Funding for maintaining and improving the water supply infrastructure (pipes, filtration and disinfection systems) comes from the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage. The sector is regulated by the Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU).
Irish Water is currently implementing a 7-year business plan entitled Transforming Water Services in Ireland to 2021 (pdf). The plan has been brought into effect under the Water Services Act 2013 and the Water Services (No. 2) Act 2013. Further information is available on water.ie, and from the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage.
Ensuring water quality
For further information on how the quality of both public and private water supplies is ensured, see our document on water quality. You can also get information on the Household Water Conservation Charge.
Types of water supply
Public water schemes
Public water mains are administered and maintained by Irish Water, however local authorities provide certain services on behalf of Irish Water through service level agreements.
The Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage funds the provision and upgrading of capital projects in water and wastewater services. Irish Water administer the actual building of public water supply projects. Stringent water testing is carried out on all public waters by local authorities and the results are provided to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) each year.
Irish water plebiscite on ownership
Section 2 of the Water Services Act 2014 provides that, before a Bill can be proposed for the sale of any share in Irish Water to anyone other than a Government Minister, a number of steps must be taken:
- A resolution must be passed by each House of the Oireachtas (the Dáil and the Seanad) approving such a proposal
- A proposal to allow for such a sale must be submitted to a plebiscite and
- The proposal must be approved in the plebiscite
Anyone with a right to vote in a referendum would have the right to vote in this plebiscite.
Group water schemes
Many households that are not connected to a public water supply are served by group water schemes. These schemes are formed by two 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 from private sources like wells or lakes.
You have to pay for your water if you belong to a private group water scheme. However, local authorities do provide subsidies for each house in a group scheme – see 'Grants for wells and group water schemes' 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 to allow local authority personnel on their land to maintain pipes, etc. The group must give the local authority a map of the pipe system and give it 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, it may get technical and grant assistance from the local authority for any necessary upgrading works.
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.
Private water supplies (groundwater)
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. The Institute of Geologists of Ireland (IGI) has prepared guidelines for drilling private wells.
When the well is drilled, you should seal it against pollution, make sure it is disinfected and get a sample tested. See the IGI’s guidelines on Water well construction (pdf) for further details. 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 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. Irish water are currently operating a Leakage Reduction Programme to improve the pipe network across the country.
Regulations made under the Water Services Act (pdf) also apply to water restrictions in times of water shortages. Irish Water can make an order to stop or restrict the use of water supplies for:
- Watering gardens, recreational parks or sports grounds
- Washing cars and trailers (including by commercial car wash facilities)
- Filling or replenishing swimming pools, ponds and lakes
- Irrigating or spraying crops.
It is an offence not to comply with a water conservation order.
Grants for wells and group water schemes
Grants for a private water supply
Under the Rural Water programme, there are grants available to improve people’s private water supply in rural areas where they cannot access the public water supply. A private water supply provides water to one house and is often, a well.
To qualify for a grant, your house must be more than 7 years old and not connected to a public or group scheme. You can get a grant to:
Fix a private water supply
This grant covers 85% of the approved costs of rehabilitation works to your well, up to a maximum of €3,000.
Install a new well
This grant covers 85% of the approved costs of a new well, up to a maximum of €5,000. Your local authority must agree that a new well is the most appropriate solution.
Improve the water quality
This grant covers 100% of the approved costs of improving water quality in your well, up to a maximum of €1,000. The work may include filtration or Ultra Violet treatment.
The minimum grant you can get is €750.
To apply for a grant, you should complete an application form (pdf) and send it to the rural water section of your local authority.
For further information see the Department’s terms and conditions for the grants.
Grants for group water schemes
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 €7,650 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 subsidy is:
- Up to €115 for each house supplied from a from a public source (Irish Water)
- Up to €231 for each house supplied from a private source (such as a private well, lake or borehole)
- The cost per house where water disinfection and treatment is provided under a Design Build Operate (DBO) contract
- Up to €100 per house for schemes of less than 100 houses, that agree to work towards an amalgamation or strategy that results in them forming a new entity
How to apply
Where to apply
The Water Forum (An Fóram Uisce)
An Fóram Uisce is an independent, statutory body established to provide a platform for public engagement on all matters relating to water as an environmental, social and economic resource and in the roll out of the River Basin Management Plan for Ireland.
It consists of 26 members representing organisations and sectors with an interest in water issues including the environmental sector, the rural and agriculture sector, consumers including customers of Irish Water, the rural water sector, river trusts, angling and water sports, the business sector, trade unions, the community and voluntary sector, fisheries and aquaculture, forestry, education, social housing and tourism.
An Fóram Uisce has advisory roles to the following:
- Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage in relation to Government Water Policy
- Commission for Regulation of Utilities in relation to the performance of Irish Water
- Water Policy Advisory Committee in relation to River Basin Management Plans
An Fóram is also required to make recommendations to Irish Water in relation to the performance of its functions.
The functions of An Fóram Uisce were previously carried out by the Public Water Forum and the National Rural Water Services Committee. You can find more information at nationalwaterforum.ie.