I propose to take Questions Nos. 122, 123 and 130 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 CER has been given statutory responsibility for protecting the interests of customers.
The Government has decided, following consideration of proposals in relation to the funding model for Irish Water and taking account of the work of the Inter-Departmental Working Group, which was established to advise the Government on the appropriate method for addressing affordability issues which may arise with the introduction of domestic water charges, to provide a free allowance of 30,000 litres of water supplied and waste water treated per annum for a primary residence on a public supply. The Government has also decided to provide for an additional free allowance to cover the normal usage of water services by every child in their primary residence based on the same qualifying conditions as child benefit, such that water charges will in effect only apply to adults in such households. The normal consumption is estimated at 38,000 litres annually per child of water supplied and waste water treated and so the allowance being provided will be up to 38,000 litres per annum. This level of consumption will be verified over time thr ough actual data from metering.
The Government has also decided that bills will be capped at the relevant assessed charge level for those customers with particular medical conditions which necessitate high water usage. Qualifying medical conditions will be set out, following consultation with the nister for Health and the Health Services Executive.
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. In making its decision on the approval or otherwise of the first water charges plan, the CER will take into account the decisions made by the Government on the funding model for Irish Water and the policy direction issued.
I am not aware of any recommended daily minimum water usage for adults under a European health policy, but the Commission has suggested in a recent communication, that Member States, acting within their competences, should ensure access to a minimum water supply for all citizens, in accordance with World Health Organisation recommendations. The WHO recommendations indicate that 20-25 litres per person per day represents a minimum requirement (i.e. 7,300-9,125 litres per annum).