The provisions of the Report of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on the Future Funding of Domestic Water Services have now been largely legislated for, as required, in the Water Services Act 2017. The Water Services Policy Statement 2018-2025 sets out the range of policy objectives across the key thematic areas of quality, conservation and future proofing which are aligned with Project Ireland 2040 (the National Planning Framework and the National Development Plans).
The National Development Plan 2021-2030 provides for almost €6bn investment by Irish Water, in the period 2021-2025, with over €4.5 billion of that total being Voted Exchequer funded. This investment includes the projects and programmes committed to in Irish Water’s Capital Investment Plan 2020-2024, which projects spend of circa €6bn for capital expenditure and circa €5bn for operational expenditure.
In addition, the National Development Plan 2021-2030 includes an allocation of over €243 million in funding for the period 2021 to 2025 for non-Irish Water investment in water services infrastructure. This includes €175 million funding for the Multi-Annual Rural Water Programme, and €68.5 million funding for legacy issues in relation to Developer Provided Water Services Infrastructure, and lead pipe remediation which is a feature of public water supplies.
Following on from the recommendations contained in the 2017 Report, the Rural Water Working Group was established in 2018 to conduct a review of the wider resources and investment needs relating to the rural water sector.
In February 2019, my Department announced the Multi-Annual Rural Water Programme 2019-2021, the composition of this programme was based on recommendations from the Working Group. As part of these recommendations, the grant scheme to support improvement works for a private water supply was revised. The revised scheme, which opened for applications on 04 June 2020, brought into effect the following changes:
- A maximum grant for rehabilitation works of €3,000, an increase of 47% on the previous maximum grant level of €2,031;
- A maximum grant of €5,000 in cases where the local authority agrees that the most appropriate solution is to provide a new well.
The maximum percentage of approved costs was increased from 75% to 85%, subject to the total maximum costs of either €3,000 for well rehabilitation or €5,000 for a new well.
Recognising the role of the grant in improving quality, the water quality treatment element (typically filtration and UV treatment) qualifies for 100% funding up to a maximum of €1,000.
In implementing the revised arrangements, my Department has undertaken to conduct a review of the grant schemes, to ensure their continued alignment with policy objectives. The specifics of this review are currently being formalised. In finalising the structure and timeline for the review, consideration will be given to the most appropriate timing in order to ensure best engagement from relevant stakeholders. This review is expected to be completed next year.
The schemes are administered by the local authorities on behalf of my Department. Further details can be found on my Department’s website or from each local authority.