Irish Water's 'first fix free' is for leaks of 53,000 litres
Irish Water is proposing to only fix leaks in properties which are haemorrhaging almost 53,000 litres of water per year - equivalent to almost six months' 'average' household usage.
Proposed terms of the €51m 'first fix free' policy means customers who are losing less than six litres of water per hour could face an additional €160 annual bill a year for water which they do not consume.
And the company has also said that it does not plan to be liable for the cost of repairing and re-instating expensive paving which may be damaged during repair works.
Terms and conditions sent to the water regulator state the householder will be responsible for these works, and that the company will only re-instate to a "standard" finish.
The details are contained in a consultation document published by the regulator, the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER), which is open for comments until May 15. It says that to qualify for the scheme, the household must be a domestic customer, must be registered with Irish Water and must have a meter installed. This allows engineers to identify leaks.
In addition, the leak must not be inside the house and there must be a constant flow of at least six litres of water per hour through the meter over a 48-hour period.
This is designed to capture high levels of consumption at a time when the occupants are not expected to draw water from their taps, for example during the night. A constant flow during these periods suggests there is a leak.
However, Irish Water customers with leakage below the six litres per hour face being hit in the pocket after the cap of charges expires at the end of 2018.
A customer wasting five litres per hour would lose 43,800 litres a year. Based on current tariffs, this equates to a bill of some €162 a year.
The company said that the threshold was set 'quite low', and that its proposals would involve some 55,400 household inspections, with some 23,235 repairs expected to be completed by the end of 2016.
It would also advise customers if they had an internal leak.
"We have to set it at a level which targets the worst leaks to get the greatest savings. Six litres is a very low flow rate - a pinhole in a pipe could result in 800 litres a day being lost - and if it was set lower, alarms would go off all over the country," a spokeswoman said.
"We will also advise people if they have an internal leak, such as a dripping tap, or a running tank in the attic."
Some 49pc of all water produced every day is lost through leakage. Some 150 customers have received bills from the company which show they are each using more than €1,000 worth of water between January and March due to leaks, and the company has already detected over 30,000 suspected problems in properties.
Customers in these cases will be sent a Customer Notification Letter, and must respond within 30 working days. The company will then offer a leak investigation within 10 days of the householder making contact, and a repair must be scheduled within 60 days. If an appointment is not agreed between the customer and company within this period, Irish Water proposes withdrawing the offer of a repair.
Some 2,500 customers have already been offered a leak investigation. Irish Water has not proposed that only customers who have paid their bills will qualify for the scheme, but households must be registered. If the problem re-emerges within 12 months, a second repair will be carried out for free.
Households without a meter will pay a capped charge of no more than €260 per year for a two-adult household, and €160 for a single adult household, and do not qualify for the scheme.
People with a joint supply, for business and domestic use, are also disqualified. Submissions can be made to The Commission for Energy Regulation, The Exchange, Belgard Square North, Tallaght, Dublin 24 or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org. The closing date is May 15.