Household water charge details to be revealed
Plans for household water charges will be brought before Government within weeks, the Environment Minister said today.
John Gormley said the levy would not be imposed for at least two years but declined to say how much the public would be forced to pay.
Meters are to be installed in 1.1 million homes from next year with Mr Gormley insisting the charges would be politically unpopular but absolutely necessary.
"I think everybody who understands the environment ... they know that this is an absolute necessity," he said.
"You just can't go putting your head in the sand on these issues any longer. Water is a precious resource."
The minister would not say how much households would be charged but said a speculated figure of €400 per household was wide of the mark.
He pointed to other EU countries as a possible indicator.
He conceded that the move, first outlined in last year's Budget, would not be popular but it would cut down wasteful use.
And he claimed those on the breadline would understand the need for it.
"Not particularly politically popular, but it's facing up to that reality," he said.
"All the evidence shows that when you actually charge for water people conserve it, people use it wisely."
Mr Gormley was unveiling a €93m fund for the country's ageing water infrastructure this year, including almost €85m for county councils.
Some €320m has been pledged to redevelop the water network for the next three years.
The Water Services Investment Programme 2010 to 2012 comprises just over 130 contracts and water conservation projects worth around €1bn.
The minister said conserving water was a key priority as highlighted by the severe shortages experienced during the big freeze earlier this year.
"It does not make sense from an economic or environmental perspective to invest in expanding water treatment capacity if there is a significant loss of treated water in ageing or damaged networks," he said.
Mr Gormley vowed the money was guaranteed and claimed it would be increased if necessary.