First water bill now due in 2015 as troika agrees deadline extension
HOUSEHOLDERS will receive their first bills for drinking water in January 2015, a year later than first expected.
Environment Minister Phil Hogan said the deadline for the introduction of the controversial charges had been extended following an agreement with the troika.
But the bills will be back-dated to October next year, meaning homeowners will be paying for water three months in arrears.
The average bill per family is expected to be between €300 and €350 a year, but this will not be confirmed until later this year or early 2014, after the water regulator sets the prices following public consultation.
The first meters will be installed in homes from early next month, and some 650,000 properties across the State have already been surveyed.
Mr Hogan confirmed that leakages found on private properties would be fixed for free – first revealed in the Irish Independent – and that customers would be given a free allowance.
He added that he hoped to inform people of the charges by the end of the year, but "did not want to be prescriptive".
"We intend that households will be provided with a free allowance and that there will be specific supports for those with medical conditions that necessitate a high level of water use and those with affordability issues," he said.
"We have two-thirds of the country surveyed at this stage. It's not acceptable that we have 40pc of the water network in bad shape. We need to get more money into the system.
"If we identify leaks between the meter and the door of the dwelling, we're trying to work out a system where the customer is not responsible for that."
He said he was "pleased" the troika had agreed to extend the deadline to introduce charges by another year.
Installing meters in 1.1 million homes will take up to three years, with 27,000 planned to be installed every month.
Households where a meter cannot be installed – for example apartments – will be billed on the basis of an assessed, or average, charge.
Separately, the company charged with taking control of the water network announced the location of eight new regional offices to support the provision of water and waste water services.
The offices are in Dublin, Mullingar, Castlebar, Cavan, Donegal, Kilkenny, Limerick and Mallow, and each will employ between 18 and 32 staff – a total of around 220. Irish Water's website, www.water.ie, will be launched on Friday.
Metering should be completed by December 2016.