Tuesday 21 November 2017

Three bathfuls before you are deemed a water waster under new deal

Water meters will be installed in all new builds (Stock picture)
Water meters will be installed in all new builds (Stock picture)
Niall O'Connor

Niall O'Connor

Householders will get almost three bathfuls of water per day before being hit with penalties once the new water regime is introduced.

The Oireachtas Water committee has agreed in principle on the issue of 'excessive usage' - in a move that has brought the long-running dispute between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil to an end.

Under the deal, the Commission of Energy Regulation will be handed the role of determining what constitutes 'normal usage' of water per household.

It was agreed that households that use 70pc above this limit will then reach a second threshold known as 'excessive usage'.

Families that fall into this category will be deemed to be "wilfully" wasting water and will be slapped with penalties.

When calculating in terms of individual occupants of a property, the threshold for excessive usage will be set at 226 litres per day - the equivalent of almost three full bathtubs.

However, Government sources emphasised that this rate will reduce over time, as people improve their conservation habits following the introduction of the new water regime.

So-called water wasters will be given a number of warnings and a lengthy notice period before they are hit with fines under the agreement.

Consensus was also reached around the use of the 2007 Water Services Act to introduce so-called 'excessive usage'. The act will need to be amended by the Government to ensure Ireland meets its EU obligations as laid down under the 'Polluter Pays' principle.

Refunds will be paid to those who have already paid their bills, but this will have to be administered by the Government.

The committee will meet next week to agree outstanding issues such as the roll-out of metering.

But this is unlikely to pose any major difficulty after Fianna Fáil agreed to accept a proposal for all new builds to have meters installed as a precondition.

It remains unclear whether this will also apply to refurbishments.

Politically, both Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil were claiming victory last night.

Fine Gael said that almost 71,000 households could face penalties as a result. The party also told TDs that maintaining Irish Water represented a major achievement.

Fianna Fáil said it had ensured there would be "equal treatment" for all households, including those on group water schemes. The party also said that a referendum on public ownership would be held.

Irish Independent

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