I propose to take Questions Nos. 176 to 178, inclusive, together.
My Department's Water Services Investment Programme 2003 — 2005, a copy of which is available in the Oireachtas Library, sets out a timetable under which funding will be provided by my Department to facilitate the commencement of specific schemes during the period 2003 to 2005. Funding is also available to allow schemes included in the programme under the rural towns and villages and serviced land initiatives to proceed to construction once the contract procurement process has been completed. In addition, schemes have been identified to advance through planning to which construction start dates will be assigned in future phases of the programme. The selection of small public water, group water and sewerage scheme proposals for funding under the devolved rural water programme is a matter for the local authorities concerned within general guidelines laid down by my Department.
My Department has established the public private partnership approach, employing the design-build-operate — DBO — model, as the standard practice for the procurement and management of new water and wastewater treatment infrastructure under the water services investment programme. In this context, DBO offers a number of distinct advantages over traditional procurement, including: single point responsibility for design, construction, operation and maintenance, which incentivises the contractor to optimise the whole life cost of the project; acceleration of infrastructure provision and reduced exposure to construction inflation as the operational phase, and the related payments to the contractor, do not commence until construction has been completed; better allocation of risk, resulting in greater certainty of final capital cost; and use of new and innovative technologies with associated technical and economic advantages.
Local authorities are being assisted in the implementation of this policy through a range of guidance and other supports produced by my Department.
Capital funding of the water services investment programme is primarily Exchequer based, supplemented by contributions raised by local authorities from the non-domestic sector in accordance with Government water pricing policy. Exchequer funding in respect of approved schemes is recouped to authorities by my Department on an individual scheme basis.
The devolved rural water programme is funded through a combination of annual Exchequer block grant allocations by my Department to individual local authorities, supplemented by authorities' own resources and other non-Exchequer funding, including capital contributions by group water scheme members.