Tuesday, 22 June 2021
Saincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Debate
I thank the Deputy for raising this issue and allowing me the opportunity to outline the position in respect of Irish Water’s responsibility on this matter. The Water Services Acts 2007 to 2017 set out the arrangements in place for the delivery of water and waste water services by Irish Water, and for the scrutiny and oversight provisions that apply in respect of these arrangements. Since 1 January 2014, Irish Water has had statutory responsibility for all aspects of water services planning, delivery and operation at national, regional and local levels, including with respect to water supply interruptions and communication with customers and the maintenance of water and waste water infrastructure. Irish Water is independent in the exercise of its statutory functions and in regard to day-to-day operational matters.
In assuming responsibility for water services from local authorities, Irish Water has entered into service level agreements, SLAs, with each local authority for the provision of water services. Staff members working under these arrangements remain local authority employees while continuing to perform key water services functions with local authorities acting as agents of Irish Water.
As part of the operational model established by the Oireachtas it is important to note that the Commission for Regulation of Utilities, CRU, in its role as economic regulator of Irish Water, has an important role in regulating and protecting the interests of Irish Water customers. One of the key ways the CRU protects customers is through the Irish Water customer handbooks, which set out how Irish Water must deal with its domestic and non-domestic customers. In the case of planned interruptions for operational reasons or for other service incidents, the handbooks detail how Irish Water must communicate with its customers. These handbooks are available on the CRU website.
Planned supply interruptions can occur for maintenance reasons or in regard to planned works undertaken by local authority staff or third party contractors on behalf of Irish Water. Unplanned interruptions can often be the result of a fault in the network, or related to a severe weather event, and are usually responded to in the first instance by the relevant local authority under the service level agreement with Irish Water.
Irish Water assures me that it makes every effort to deliver on its responsibilities and keeping such interruptions to a minimum to the extent possible, thus minimising the impact on its customers.
I assure Deputy Ellis that all Oireachtas Members and councillors use the public representatives’ service. I find it good but I take on board the points made in terms of it being a different way. It took a bit of getting used to from when we would make representations directly to a local authority. Generally, I find that any representations I make to Irish Water in regard to water or waste water infrastructure or emergency situations are good but there is always room for improvement in this regard.