I propose to take Questions Nos. 470, 472 and 491 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 t he metering programme. In common with meters for other utility services, the meters will be the property of Irish Water which will also be responsible for meter repair and maintenance. The 2013 Act also provides that, for the purposes of the domestic metering programme, Irish Water is exempt from the requirement to obtain the consent of the relevant local authority.
Irish Water has confirmed to my Department that the meters it has procured comply with all relevant European and international standards designed to protect the health and safety of customers and the public. Irish Water has also confirmed to my Department that it has a Quality Management System in place designed in accordance with the ISO 9001 standard. Additionally the regional contractors working for and on behalf of Irish Water on the metering programme all have Quality Management Systems designed in accordance with the ISO 9001 standard.
In designing the technical specification for the Metering Capital Programme, Irish Water has drawn both from international standards and from extensive local experience of the installation of both Grade B and Grade C meter box covers over the last 12 years. Irish Water monitors the installations by its contractors and can require the installation of a Grade B meter box if it is deemed necessary. Irish Water regularly undertakes technical reviews of the metering programme with the aim of making improvements.
With effect from 1 January 2014, Irish Water is responsible for public water services. The Water Services (No. 2) Act 2013 provides that Irish Water can collect charges from its customers in receipt of water services provided by it. The Act also provides that responsibility for the independent economic regulation of the water sector is assigned to the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) and the CER has been given statutory responsibility for protecting the interests of customers. Section 71 of the Water Services Act 2007 provides that Irish Water may require any consumer of water to take such supply through a water meter. Section 21 of the Water Services (No. 2) Act 2013 provides that Irish Water shall not disconnect the supply of water to a household. However, Irish Water may reduce the supply of water to a property, where charges remain unpaid.
The 2013 Act also requires that Irish Water will prepare codes of practice, on a range of matters, including standards in relation to the performance by Irish Water of its functions and billing by Irish Water of persons in respect of water services provided. Irish Water will also be required to prepare a code of practice on any matter considered necessary by the CER. Consultation is currently being undertaken by the CER on the requirements for Irish Water in relation to the codes of practice, customer charters and terms and conditions. Full details of the CER’s public consultation plans are available on its website (www.cer.ie ).