IRISH Water will set up a panel of external consultants to advise on archaeology and ecology -- as the Government defended the new body's salary and perks regime.
Two senior Government ministers warned that it was vital the new semi-State set-up to overhaul water services prove a success given that it would be handling future revenues streams of €1bn-plus.
However, they stressed the Government does not consider the current economic period as justifying any bonus payments.
Their comments came amid uproar over revelations that 29 senior staff, including managing director John Tierney, are on salaries of over €100,000.
Opposition and anti-water charge groups expressed outrage at the payment regime given what they termed "the terrible hardship" that water charges will entail for many low-income families.
Cork TD Mr Coveney warned that in every business the salary paid reflects the job involved.
"If you look across local authorities in Ireland, there are 34 local authorities all providing water services . . . all with senior management on significant salaries because they are doing significant jobs," he said.
Irish Water says the decision to seek further consultants will save money and result in faster delivery of water services.
Industry experts agree that appointing a panel of pre-qualified service providers is standard practice and will allow for faster processing of capital investment projects.
And Keeper of Irish Antiquities at the Museum of Archaeology Ned Kelly said it would be "insanity" not to seek external consultants. "If they're putting infrastructure into old medieval towns, for instance, there's all sorts of implications potentially and they would need archaeologists on hand to advise them how to do that in the most effective way," he said.
"They'd need to be advised where to put new pipelines to avoid archaeology because you want an archaeological adviser to tell you where to go so you're not going to hit archaeology."
Service providers in the area of archaeology and ecology are being sought to provide a wide range of services such as environmental monitoring and environmental impact assessments required under strict EU directives.
The services will be required particularly during the concept and planning stages.
This is the first time the issue of archaeological items or sites being disturbed by the installation of water meters and laying down of new pipe networks has been raised in the overhaul of the country's water services.
Irish Water said there were such areas "all over the country" that needed to be considered.
Sam Griffin and Ralph Riegel