Friday 26 December 2014

Miss out on water meter and you're stuck on fixed charge

Fionnan Sheahan, Group Political Editor

Published 21/04/2014 | 02:30

Miss out on water meter and you're stuck on fixed charge
Miss out on water meter and you're stuck on fixed charge
Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore

HOUSEHOLDERS who don't get a water meter installed on the first pass will be stuck with the fixed bill for three years.

Families living in a house with no water meter will be forced to pay up to €70 more in their water bills, under government plans.

But if households are not metered at the first attempt they face a long delay until they get another chance at having a meter installed, the Irish Independent has learned.

Water meter contractors who cannot find your stop-cock, or locate where your water supply comes into the house will move on – leaving your home on the assessed charge, which is more expensive than the metered bill.

These houses, known as "stepovers", will be returned to in three years' time in the second phase of the water-meter rollout. When water charges are introduced later this year, only a quarter to one-third of houses in the country will have a meter in place.

Although installing the meters is easier in estates and built-up areas, there will be cases where one house on a street won't get a meter, while the neighbouring homes will.

A number of engineering reasons are popping up for homeowners not being able to initially get meters installed.

A small number of homeowners have also objected to water meters being installed, so they, too, will be stuck on the assessed charge.

The contractors installing water meters have a quota to complete each day. Finding the water supply source can take up a lot of time and involve substantial roadworks, if it is not in the obvious place outside the front of the house.

In some cases, stopcocks are covered over by concrete, are located at the back of the house, or the supply is shared between a number of different houses.

Also, the distance from the main road to a house can be significant, with the location of the supply pipe not being obvious. Houses listed as "stepovers" will be returned to in the second phase of the rollout of water meters.

At the end of the first phase, about a quarter of all houses won't have a meter, because their water supply is shared or it's not possible to install a meter.

Currently, 27,000 water meters are being installed every month with a speed-up of metering to be examined by the Government in the coming months.

Being on a meter allows a householder to reduce their consumption of water and cut their bill. Figures contained in a government document, obtained by the Irish Independent, show a family of four can expect to pay €248 a year in water charges.

Water conservation measures can, however, reduce this bill.

Without a meter, the same family of two adults and two children will pay a fixed bill depending on the type of house they live in:

* €213.20 in a terraced house.

* €266.50 in a semi-detached house.

* €319.90 in a detached house.

More than 400,000 water meters will be installed by the time water charges are introduced later this year. The lack of water meters is among the concerns expressed by the Labour Party in its acrimonious fight with Fine Gael over the announcement of water charges.

Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore also wants greater assistance in paying the bills for those on low incomes, including pensioners and those on social welfare benefits.

Now Fine Gael is telling Labour to come up with ways to provide relief from water charges for people on low incomes from Minister Joan Burton's social welfare budget.

Ms Burton's department didn't want to introduce another payment, as it was concerned about the creation of a new benefit that a family would lose if an unemployed worker got a job.

But Fine Gael figures say if Labour wants to provide additional relief, then their own ministers will have to come up with the funds.

Irish Independent

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