The Irish Commission for the Regulation of Utilities will decide before the end of June whether to agree to Irish Water’s proposal to impose charges to households that use too much water, reports the Irish Times. Initially, the regulator supports the plan, for the sake of fairness and equity.
A domestic-sector consumption-based charging regime was first introduced in Ireland back in 2014, met with public opposition, and was suspended in 2016. A parliamentary committee decided then to end charges for ‘normal’ water use, finally agreeing to charges only for water use in excess of a certain annual allowance. The charges are required to comply with the principle of recovery of costs of water services in EU’s Water Framework Directive.
Irish Water recommends a €1.85 charge for every 1,000 litres consumed above a threshold of 213,000 litres per year ─ 583 litres per day per household, or 1.7 times the average household use of 345 litres per day in the country ─, with a maximum charge of €250 per year. A similar charge would apply to wastewater services, so a household could potentially be charged up to €500 extra per year. The new measure could affect up to 70,000 households, some 5-6% of Irish Water’s customers, and may generate some controversy.
To implement the new measure, Irish Water will be monitoring domestic water use, although of course only homes with water meters can be monitored, and less than 60% of Irish homes have them. For the remaining 40% unmetered homes, the utility has planned an investigation to pinpoint those homes that are using too much water. The homes identified will be offered a meter or a flow monitoring device to accurately monitor their consumption. Also, taking into account that leaks account for much excess consumption, customers will be offered a ‘first fix for free’ to see if their excessive use is due to a leak. Those found to consume water above the allowance will have one year to lower their consumption. Exemptions are planned for households with five members or more, and people with a medical condition.