Thursday, 26 March 2009
Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government
Question 170: To ask the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the steps he has taken to opt out of Article 9(1) of the Water Framework Directive that requires the recovery of water charges by Member States starting from 2010, that this will include Ireland having to charge domestic charges, unless Ireland makes a case in writing for opting out of charging for domestic water charges to the European Commission by December 2009; if he will ensure that Ireland formally requests that it opt out in time by December 2009, particularly in view of the fact that he sought a clause providing that Member States could opt out from charging for domestic water when the Water Framework Directive was being negotiated by Member States; if he will explain what is meant by the statement by the Government to the Commission that he is merely reflecting on the implementation of Article 9; if this statement means he intends that Ireland will introduce water charges from 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12685/09]
The Water Framework Directive was adopted on 23 October 2000. Article 9(1) of the Directive requires Member States to take account of the principle of the recovery of the cost of water services, including environmental and resource costs. However, Article 9(4) of the same Directive stipulates that a Member State will not be in breach of the Directive if it decides, in accordance with established practices, not to apply these provisions where it does not compromise the purposes and the achievement of the Directive's objectives.
The Local Government (Financial Provisions Act) 1997 removed the authority of water services authorities to levy charges for water services on domestic users. The Water Pricing Policy, subsequently agreed by the Government in November 1998, requires local authorities to recover the full cost of providing water services from the users of these services, with the exception of households using the services for domestic purposes. There is no requirement, therefore, for the Government to take steps to opt out of Article 9(1) given that the established practice at the time of the adoption of the Directive was not to levy charges on domestic users.
Under the Directive, the island of Ireland is divided into eight River Basin Management Districts. Management Plans for these districts must be published no later than 22 December 2009 and submitted to the European Commission within three months of publication. The Management Plans must include details of cost recovery, in accordance with Article 9. Draft River Basin Management Plans for the eight River Basin Districts in Ireland were published in December 2008 by the respective management authorities.
Question 171: To ask the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the procedures his Department has in place to assist elderly people who have land and now find under the new metering system they are receiving bills for water due to the fact there must be leaks in the pipes covering their land which can not be identified. [12699/09]
The Government's Water Pricing Policy requires local authorities to recover the cost of providing water services from non-domestic users of these services. The Policy exempts domestic users from charges for water services. As such, landowners are only levied with charges if they are engaged in commercial activity on their property, for example, farming. The policy makes no distinction between different categories of non-domestic users in the application of charges. However, where a supply serves both the domestic and business needs of a consumer, a domestic allowance is applied by the local authority.
To encourage water conservation, Section 54 of the Water Services Act 2007 includes a general duty of care for owners and occupiers to keep water distribution systems leak-free — this duty applies to both domestic and non domestic consumers.