Last month the Water Services Bill 2014 went through the Houses. This year, families will, depending on their circumstances, face bills ranging from €160 to €260. We are all aware of the rebate from the Tánaiste's Department and the costs associated with that. Yesterday we saw from the new legislative programme that the Government intends to publish another water services Bill this session. This Dáil would not be the same without a water services Bill each session. However, nobody seems to know what this particular legislation is about. The Taoiseach certainly did not know yesterday, nor was it mentioned by the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Deputy Alan Kelly, during his many speeches on the issue at the end of last year.
Flat charges will be short-lived and probably changed by 2018, but the Government is not shouting from the rooftops about that. There is no ceiling on the amount of water people can use and householders will receive relief from the Department of Social Protection in an effort by the Government to try to pass the EUROSTAT test in March. If it does pass that test, we are told we will be able to borrow money to invest in infrastructure. This would indeed be welcome given that this Government has invested less in the past four years than its predecessor did in a period before water charges were ever talked about. Despite the political propaganda professed by the Tánaiste and her colleagues, that is the factual situation.
We had reports yesterday that despite the €500 million spent by Irish Water on installing water meters and the €42 million per year that is being paid for this borrowing, the lifespan of these devices is only 15 years. We have never seen the contracts for their installation or the detail in regard to the awarding of those contracts. The management of Irish Water continues to be a secret affair between the Government and the company. As I said, we were informed yesterday that the manufacturer's design life of a water meter is 15 years. However, the devices that have been installed throughout the country will not be utilised until 2019 at the earliest. The Government is spending €500 million installing 1.2 million meters, which works out at €416 per meter. These items will effectively have a lifespan of up to ten years, given that they will not be used for the first five years following their installation. When people are told they will pay €60 for water, they should know that €42 of the bill will be for the water meter. That represents 70% of the bill for a single adult and some 26% of the bill for a family of two or more.
Does the Tánaiste consider this a responsible use of money given that her Government continues to cut services left, right and centre? Does she consider it a responsible use of money when hospital emergency services are under such pressure, community care for the elderly is almost non-existent, home help hours are being slashed, and elderly and disabled people applying for housing adaptation grants are being told they must wait three to five years before their applications can be processed? Meanwhile, back at the ranch, good old Irish Water is spending €500 million on meters that will possibly have a lifespan of only ten years, considering they will be defunct for the first five years. What assurances has the Tánaiste been given and what confidence can she assert in this House that no further moneys will be expended on upgrading these meters? Local authorities which installed water meters less than three or four years ago were subsequently told by these characters in Irish Water that they were obsolete. May we have some clarity once and for all on this issue, or will it continue to be the Government's nemesis this year? Perhaps the Tánaiste will be able to tell us what the story is before the embarrassment of the EUROSTAT test in March.