I propose to take Questions Nos. 348 and 349 together.
The Programme for Government sets out a commitment to the introduction of water charges based on usage above a free allowance. The Government considers that charging based on usage is the fairest way to charge for water and it has, therefore, decided that water meters should be installed in households connected to public water supplies. The Water Services Act 2013 provided for the establishment of Irish Water as an independent subsidiary within the Bord Gáis Éireann Group and assigned the necessary powers to allow Irish Water to undertake the metering programme. Water meters will be installed, where possible, at the stop valve on the public footpath or verge outside a property. Meters are the property of Irish Water and it is illegal to tamper with a meter. However, it will be possible for a customer to access the meter to verify readings.
A study commissioned by Irish Water on possible approaches to metering properties that are not part of the current metering programme, including apartments and properties with shared service connections, has been recently submitted to my Department for consideration. Any proposals for the metering of such properties would need to be considered by the Government in the first instance.
The Water Services (No. 2) Act 2013 provides that the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) will be responsible for the independent economic regulation of Irish Water. In particular, the CER will be responsible for approving the water charges plans prepared by Irish Water, and for approving codes of practice to be prepared by Irish Water. The Act also requires the CER to perform its functions in a manner that best serves the interests of the customers of Irish Water. In discharging its functions, the CER proposes to undertake public consultation on the approach to the design of domestic water tariffs during 2014. This will include the approach to charges for both metered and unmetered properties.