Owners who block water meters face penalties of up to €5,000
HOMEOWNERS who refuse to allow officials to install water meters on or near their properties face the prospect of being hit with fines of up to €5,000.
The vast majority of meters are to be installed adjacent to homes with a smaller amount on homeowners' properties.
The company charged with collecting fees for water from more than 1.3 million households will have sweeping powers to collect information about households from the Revenue Commissioners, Department of Social Protection and other state agencies.
Details of how Irish Water will operate emerged last night in the Water Services Bill 2013.
The bill is expected to go through the Houses of the Oireachtas within three months, allowing it to begin charging for water from January next year.
The publication of the bill comes after the Irish Independent yesterday revealed that homeowners face average bills of €370 a year.
The Government plans to collect €500m a year from households, which will be used to meet the cost of providing water.
However, there is concern that the new company will not be covered under the Freedom of Information Act, which was sharply criticised by Fianna Fail last night.
FF spokesman on Public Expenditure and Reform Sean Fleming said it was a "glaring omission that must be addressed".
"The public have a right to know how this company will operate, the costs it will incur and the charges and rationale for the charging scheme it will be levelling on the public. For this to be guaranteed, Irish Water must come under the remit of Freedom of Information," he said.
The Water Services Bill also removes the ban on charging for domestic water and says that charges will not be introduced before January 1 next year.
Other provisions include:
* Irish Water will be established as a subsidiary of Bord Gais. One share will be held by Bord Gais, and the remaining shares split between the Minister for the Environment and Minister for Finance.
* It will be responsible for installing meters, and can prosecute households that refuse to allow access to property or fail to provide information.
* It can also install pipes, without seeking planning permission and interrupt a water supply.
* It can borrow up to €500m.
* The Commission for Energy Regulation will set the prices, and advise on policy.
The bill will be published today.