The Programme for Government and the Memorandum of Understanding with the EU, the IMF and the ECB provide for the introduction of domestic water charges. It is not intended that domestic water charges will commence before 2014. The Government considers that charging based on usage is the fairest way to charge for water and it has decided that water meters should be installed in households connected to public water supplies. The Government has also decided that Irish Water, a new State-owned water company to be established as an independent subsidiary within the Bord Gáis Éireann Group, will be responsible for the metering programme.
The Water Services Bill 2013, which completed its passage through the Dáil last week, will assign the necessary powers to allow Irish Water to undertake the metering programme. The Bill also assigns to the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) the power to advise the Government on the development of a regulatory framework for water services.
Affordability measures will be addressed by my Department and the Department s of Social Protection and Public Expenditure and Reform, in consultation with the CER, Irish Water and other stakeholders, in the context of developing a water pricing framework. The agreed approach will then be reflected in the charging structure established by the CER.
In addition, Irish Water will be required to have a range of options in place to assist householders who have difficulties in paying their bills. For example, a wide range of flexible payment options are available for the other utility services and it is expected that these will be replicated for water services.