I propose to take Questions Nos. 58, 59, 68, 71, 81, 88, 91, 93 and 835 together.
The programme for Government and the memorandum of understanding with the EU, IMF and the ECB provide for the introduction of domestic water charges. The Government considers that charging based on usage is the fairest way to charge for water and has, therefore, decided that water meters should be installed in households connected to public water supplies. International evidence has shown that where meters have been installed, significant reductions have been achieved in the level of consumption, and this is also borne out by the water savings achieved with metering in the group water sector. Block metering or district metering is already widely utilised by water services authorities in the management of the water services network and should be seen as complementary, rather than as an alternative, to domestic metering. While district metering can assist the monitoring of consumption at a network level, it does not provide any information to individual households on their consumption or any incentive for customers to use water resources more efficiently.
The Government has also decided to establish Irish Water, a new State-owned water company to be established as an independent subsidiary within the Bord Gáis group. The Water Services Act 2013 provides that Bord Gáis will establish Irish Water as a company under the Companies Acts and conform to the conditions set out in the Act. The Act also provides that the memorandum and articles of association of Irish Water are to be in a form consistent with the Act, as may be approved by the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government with the consent of the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources and the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform. The arrangements for the appointment of directors to the board of Irish Water are set out in the articles of association.
The water sector reform implementation strategy, which is published on the Department’s website, is focused on ensuring appropriate policy and legal frameworks are put in place for Irish Water and the water sector. The implementation strategy provides clarity on the steps involved in this process and the key milestones and deliverables to be achieved this year. The transfer of assets and liabilities from existing water services authorities to Irish Water supports the overall objective of delivering efficiencies within the sector by allowing Irish Water to control assets, revenue and costs, thereby supporting better economies of scale in terms of capital investment and operating costs, and optimising borrowing capacity. The identification and valuation of the relevant asset base and the development of policy and legislation for the transfer of these assets is being progressed. Work is also under way on identifying the liabilities which will transfer to Irish Water.
Irish Water will be responsible for the domestic water metering programme and the collection of water charges. Regional management contractors are due to be appointed by Irish Water later this month following a public tendering process. They will have responsibility for appointing subcontractors. It is expected they will utilise the resources of the subcontractors from the pre-qualified panel created by my Department.
The installation of meter boxes and domestic water meters will be rolled out as quickly as possible. At least 25% of the estimated 1,600 jobs created directly by Irish Water’s domestic water metering programme will be given to people from SMEs, the unemployment register, school leavers, graduates and apprentices.