How much will it cost and when will it come into place?
- WHAT'S the story with water charges?
Irish people use a lot of water, about 55,000 litres per person every year. It costs €1bn to treat this, and the State can't afford it. The EU/IMF says we have to introduce water charges by 2012/2013 so users -- you and me -- will foot the bill.
- Aren't charges already in place?
Any premises that is not a home is charged for water, including schools. The water is generally metered -- though some types of business have flat rate charges -- and the money is collected by local authorities.
Councils have huge difficulties in getting the money, with collection rates as low as 27pc in some areas.
- How much will the charge be?
We don't know. Informed sources say about €175 per year, until meters are installed. After that, households will be given a free allowance, and pay for any extra used. The Government won't make a decision until meters are installed in households in 2014.
- But I'm already hit with the universal social charge, higher fuel prices and a hike in my mortgage payments. What if I can't afford the charges?
People on low incomes and social welfare will get a waiver -- we think. But then there's no incentive to reduce consumption.
- What happens if I don't pay?
You're unlikely to be cut off, given the bad press that would ensue. But the council could register a charge against your property, meaning you cannot sell your home unless your outstanding bill is paid.
- Didn't Fine Gael and Labour say there'd be no water charges in the run-up to the election?
Yes and no. Fine Gael said charges would not be introduced until meters were installed. It now says it has no choice because of the EU/IMF. Labour was opposed to charges in any form, but has since agreed with imposing charges.
- So who's going to pay to install the meters?
Again, we don't know. The National Pension Reserve Fund said it is willing to pay the €500m cost of putting the meters in, but the money might be taken from the Department of the Environment's budget.
- What will the charges be used for?
They're supposed to be ring-fenced to pay for the cost of treating the water, and to upgrade our creaking and leaking water system. The Department of Finance may want a slice of the cash though.
- When will we get certainty on all these issues?
The Government has to submit proposals to the EU/IMF by the autumn, setting out how much the charge will be and who will run the system.