House type may determine water charges
THOUSANDS of householders hit with a property tax calculated on the valuation of their home will soon have to pay a water charge based on the type of house they live in.
The Government is to introduce the charge on the properties from January while householders wait to have water meters installed.
Local authorities will begin installing meters in July, and plan to put in 27,000 each month until 2016.
Those on the waiting list, along with an estimated 300,000 households deemed unsuitable for metering, will have to pay a fee based on the kind of house they live in rather than on how much water they use.
The Department of the Environment said there would be no "flat fixed rate charge". Rather, it will be structured in a way that ensures charges are fair.
A spokesman said: "The charges could be based on property type or other parameters that can be used as a proxy for usage.
"The methodology for unmetered charges will be developed by Irish Water and examined and approved by the Commission for Energy Regulation as part of the regulatory process.
"There will be full public consultation by the Commission for Energy Regulation on the approach taken to charges."
The water charges programme is being led by Irish Water, the agency set up as a subsidiary of the semi-state Bord Gais.
The Commission for Energy Regulation will set the price of water. It is currently working on a formula for charging unmetered households and is expected to announce a pricing structure before the end of the year.
The assessed charge is likely to be fraught with difficulties, with Irish Water acknowledging that about 300,000 households may never be metered because of the cost or technical difficulties.
A spokesperson for Bord Gais said more than one million meters would be installed by the end of 2016, leaving an estimated 300,000 households facing an assessed charge.
Bord Gais said both a metered and an assessed charge was "the norm" in other countries.
"In England, for example, approximately one-third of households have a meter, while others pay an assessed charge," it said.
The meter roll-out is expected to create 2,000 jobs over the three-and-a-half year installation programme.
Companies have been invited to tender for the contract to put the meters in, which will be awarded soon.
Householders will ultimately cover the cost of the installation of the meters and boundary boxes.
They will pay a charge – thought to be around €800 – over a period of 20 years.
The nationwide programme is being initially funded by the National Pensions Reserve Fund.