Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Questions (130)

Micheál Martin

Question:

130. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his policy in relation to Irish Water; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3531/14]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

The Programme for Government promised to introduce a fair funding model to deliver clean and reliable water; to establish a new State-owned utility to take responsibility for water infrastructure; and to implement a metering programme and water charging system based on usage above a free allowance. The water sector reform programme implementation strategy aims to implement these commitments. The role of my Department is to drive the overall water sector reform process which includes developing the policy and legislation and ensuring delivery of the implementation strategy which was published in December 2012. Bord Gáis Éireann (BGE) had responsibility for most of the deliverables under the Government water sector reform implementation strategy.

The establishment of Irish Water in 2013 was an integral component of this strategy. The reform programme underway is of huge scale and complexity and involves major organisational change, an entirely new funding structure governed by economic regulation, the introduction of domestic water charges based on usage and the roll-out of a national domestic metering programme.

The establishment of Irish Water seeks to reform the current funding model for water services, a model in which less than 20% of costs are borne directly by the users. The funding model is being reformed to ensure a sustainable level of funding so the current level of infrastructural investment increases significantly. The PwC independent assessment on establishing a public water utility found that the dependence on the Exchequer for capital funding has in the past constrained investment in the sector. The assessment assumed annual investment levels of €600 million per annum. In 2014, Irish Water will invest some €310 million in core water services infrastructure, in addition to the metering programme.  Implementation of the water sector reform programme should also lead to Irish Water being able to deliver services with greater economies of scale, manage operations and plan infrastructure with a more national approach, and to access third party funding.

The establishment of Irish Water, and related reforms, will help ensure security of quality water supply, thus helping to sustain public health, and to increase economic competitiveness by making the economy more attractive for water intensive industries such as ICT, pharma-chem and agri-food. Reform will also help improve protection of our water bodies through increased infrastructural investment in water and wastewater treatment, and lower water abstraction from water bodies as a result of reduced consumption.