ALL new buildings including houses, apartments, offices and schools will be obliged to install rainwater harvesting systems to reduce consumption and help drive down utility bills.
The Government plans to change planning regulations next year to require all new buildings to be fitted with systems that divert rainwater from gullies into storage tanks, after which it is pumped through the plumbing system to reduce consumption of mains water.
The move could help reduce average household consumption by up to 50pc, leading to lower bills.
However, the regulations will lead to higher construction costs, but the savings generated should help repay the costs over seven to 10 years.
Environment Minister Phil Hogan said the changes were part of a water conservation programme due to begin this year to help homeowners identify savings they can make.
"There will be a water conservation programme to help with the demand side," he said. "We're working on including a requirement for rainwater harvesting as part of the next review of building regulations, and it will be included as part of the planning permission.
"Houses and all buildings will be included," he added, saying the regulations should be in place by 2015 and would also include apartments.
"There's huge pressure on the east coast of Ireland in relation to water. If people are being charged, they have to be incentivised to reduce bills," he added.
A domestic rainwater harvesting system can cost between €1,500 and €4,000, depending on the size of the property, but should result in 50pc less water being used. Commercial systems are more expensive, with the Irish Water Treatment Association saying the cost to a small building housing 40 workers could be €8,000, which would be repaid in about five years.
While the cost of water has not yet been decided, bills are likely to be up to €350 a year. The cost of installing a basic domestic system could be repaid within seven years.