Tuesday, 17 June 2014
Department of Environment, Community and Local Government
Water Charges Administration
490. To ask the Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government the extent to which it might be expected to simplify the scale and extent of water charges with a view to minimising administrative costs and recognising the impact on householders notwithstanding the need to put in place adequate structure to meet the future requirements in terms of the servicing, transmission, storage and treatment of a reliable domestic water supply; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26153/14]
With effect from 1 January 2014, Irish Water is responsible for public water services. The Water Services (No. 2) Act 2013 provides that Irish Water can collect charges from its customers in receipt of water services provided by it. The Act also provides that responsibility for the independent economic regulation of the water sector is assigned to the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) and the CER has been given statutory responsibility for protecting the interests of customers.
The CER has considerable economic regulatory experience in the energy sector in relation to price setting mechanisms and customer protection. As part of its water regulatory functions, the CER is undertaking a robust analysis of Irish Water’s costs and this will include the use of benchmarking as a method of incentivising efficient business operations. The CER will operate in an open and transparent manner in carrying out its functions and making decisions in relation to the setting of water charges.
The Government has decided, following consideration of proposals in relation to the funding model for Irish Water, to provide a free allowance of 30,000 litres of water supplied and waste water treated per annum for a primary residence on a public supply. The Government has also decided to provide for an additional free allowance to cover the normal usage of water services by every child in their primary residence based on the same qualifying conditions as child benefit, such that water charges will in effect only apply to adults in such households.
The Act requires Irish Water to put in place an investment plan setting out where it considers investment in infrastructure is necessary for the effective performance of its functions. In developing investment plans, Irish Water are required to take account of a range of other policy considerations including river basin management plans and local area plans. Irish Water has published its Proposed Capital In vestment Plan for 2014 to 2016 and it is available on its website ().
Irish Water are proposing to prioritise investment where it can deliver the most urgently needed improvements in drinking water quality, leakage, water availability, wastewater compliance, efficiencies and customer service. Irish Water propose s to deliver or progress over 380 projects under the Plan which has been submitted to the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) for consideration in the context of setting water charges.