Families may be forced to pay for upkeep of water pipes
Homeowners face the prospect of being hit with a charge to pay the cost of maintaining pipes serving their property, as well as paying for water.
The Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) may also include a range of charges on customer bills relating to the cost of installing a meter, connecting to a supply and upgrading the network, the Irish Independent has learnt.
A spokesman for the regulator said a number of possible charges would be outlined during a series of consultation papers over the coming months, but no decisions had been taken.
The charges would be considered in the context of setting a tariff for domestic and commercial customers, but might not be added to customer bills, he said.
Among the options to be considered will be whether there would be one rate for water, or if different rates would apply based on consumption.
It will also look at whether a fixed or standing charge will be introduced to cover the cost of pipes or the meter, and whether a standard charge would be introduced for commercial customers.
Other issues to be addressed include whether a standing charge is recovered "upfront or over longer periods of time", and if a contribution would be made to connect to the network by people building or purchasing a new home.
The public and other interested parties will be allowed to make submissions before decisions were taken.
The CER also published details of consultation papers it will publish in the coming months, adding it would "provide advice" to Environment Minister Phil Hogan later this month on how it intended to regulate the water sector.
These include issues such as deciding how much money Irish Water will be allowed to meet its costs, how much it proposes to invest in the network, whether incentives should be introduced to encourage the company to meet or exceed targets, and how assets including plants should be valued.
The timeline for the public consultations are:
* In April, four consultations will begin. Two relate to how domestic and commercial tariffs are structured, a third on charges for connecting to the network and a fourth on customer service issues.
* In June, consultation will begin on the revenues and costs which will be allowed to Irish Water.
* In July, a charter setting out customer's rights will be finalised and published.
* In August, the final decision on charges and allowable costs and revenues for Irish Water will be made.
"The CER will consult on all elements of the economic regulatory framework for the water sector," it added.