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Sunday 16 June 2019

How almost 100,000 households are set to be hit with new 'excessive' water charge

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Paul Melia

Paul Melia

Almost 100,000 households face being hit with a new water charge from 2019.

Households found to be using an 'excessive' amount will be hit with a bill in just over 18 months, and one in 14 households can expect to pay.

The Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU) has revealed the amount of water which each of Irish Water's 1.35 million customers will be allowed to use before paying a charge.

In a report to Government, it says that an 'average' household of four people uses 125,000 litres of water a year, which falls to 47,000 litres for a single-person home. Families that consume 1.7 times the average - 213,000 litres for a four-person household and 79,900 litres for a single-occupant home - will be charged.

The tariff will be decided following a public consultation process next year. However, based on current tariffs of €1.85 per 1,000 litres of drinking water and €1.85 per 1,000 litres of wastewater, a household which consumes twice the average - or 250,000 litres a year - could face a levy of €68.45 a year. This is based on the cost of the excess of 37,000 litres of water.

The report comes after the Dáil Committee on the Future Funding of Domestic Water Services last April recommended that charging a fee for excessive usage would demonstrate Ireland was complying with EU rules aimed to improving water quality.

The analysis was based on metered data from 475,000 households.

The CRU said the charges would be subject to public consultation, and would not come into force until mid-2019.

"Based on the multiplier of 1.7, the analysis indicates that a charge for water usage above the threshold would apply to about 7pc of all customers of Irish Water who actually use approximately 31pc of all of the water provided," it added.

Irish Water confirmed it has 1.35 million customers. This means almost 95,000 face being hit with a charge.

The CRU said customers would face a charge if they exceeded the threshold for the full 12 months of 2018, and continued to use excessive volumes for the first six months of 2019, despite being warned by Irish Water in early 2019 about their usage. Billing for that six-month period would begin after June 2019.

The decision to introduce an excess tariff has been criticised as an attempt to re-introduce water charges, with campaigners vowing to oppose any such measure. Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy said the aim of the levy was to encourage conservation.

"I think water charges by the back door is a bit ridiculous," he told the Irish Independent. "When you look at the allowance before the excess charge, it will essentially allow for about eight adults, which is more than enough. Even where you have more than four adults in a house, you can get an allowance.

"It's about targeting the 7pc of households which are using one-third of our water through leaks or through excessive wastage. Exemptions for medical conditions will be brought through on regulations. We're not trying to bring in a new charging regime. Our goal is the excessive charge will raise no money. It's about getting conservation at the front of our agenda, and getting pipes fixed."

It is not clear how Irish Water will monitor excessive usage in non-metered households. In a statement, it said domestic meters or "operational leak detection" would be used to identify excessive water usage.

Irish Independent

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