I propose to take Questions Nos. 393 and 394 together.
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 water charges plan to be prepared by Irish Water is subject to the approval of the CER. The CER has recently completed a public consultation on the approach to the design of domestic water tariffs for both metered and unmetered properties. Further consultations are planned for June in relation to other aspects of the water charges plan to be submitted to the CER by Irish Water. Full details of the CER’s public consultation plans are available on its website (www.cer.ie). The CER will be announcing the approved water charges in August 2014.
I have indicated that I intend to use my powers under the Water Services (No.2) Act 2013 to issue a policy direction to the CER in relation to a number of matters relating to domestic water charges, including the calculation of assessed charges; a draft of the proposed direction has been published and is available on my Department’s website at http://www.environ.ie/en/Environment/Water/WaterSectorReform/. Households that are connected to the public water supply, but do not have a water meter installed, will be charged on an assessed basis, primarily based on occupancy. There will also be provision for a rebate, when a customer moves from an assessed charge to a metered charge and usage is deemed above a reasonable threshold by comparison to the subsequent metered usage.
Irish Water has recently commissioned a study on possible approaches to metering properties that are not part of the current metering programme, including apartments and properties with shared service connections. This report was recently submitted to my Department and the recommendations of the report are being considered. In particular, my Department is exploring with Irish Water the potential to include a new phase of metering of some 48,000 apartments, which the report suggests can be easily metered as part of a separate procurement.