I propose to take Questions Nos. 38 and 97 together.
The multi-annual Rural Water Programme 2016-2018 was developed through a working group of key stakeholders involving local authorities, the water services transition office, Irish Water and the National Federation of Group Water Schemes, as well as the Department. The programme provides for the funding of demonstration group sewerage schemes, through measure 4(d), where clustering of households on individual septic tanks is not a viable option, particularly from an environmental perspective.
Local authorities were invited in January 2016 to submit bids under the programme. The invitation envisaged no more than two demonstration group sewerage projects being brought forward under the measure in any one year of the three-year programme. The demonstrations will allow the Department, over the course of the programme, to determine the appropriate enduring funding levels and relationship with the current grant scheme.
As new demonstration group sewerage schemes have been identified for the duration of the programme, and as only two demonstration projects can be advanced in any given year, it is not proposed to modify the programme at this point. However, the Department will give consideration to the scope of the measure under the programme from 2019 onwards having regard to the implementation of the existing programme.
The Department will also be giving wider consideration to the report of the Joint Committee on the Future Funding of Domestic Water Services as it relates to the rural water sector. In that regard, the Department will shortly initiate a short, focused review of the wider investment needs relating to rural water services, including the overall approach to funding rural water issues. The review will focus on governance, supervision and monitoring of the sector and the capital investment requirements. It is anticipated that the review group will engage with relevant stakeholders and will aim to complete its work by mid 2018. The process will inform preparations for a new multi-annual programme for the period 2019 to 2021.