I propose to take Questions Nos. 515, 521, 526, 528, 536, 542, 557, 560 and 575 together.
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.
Under the European Communities (Drinking Water) Regulations 2014, a copy of which is available in the Oireachtas library, suppliers of drinking water are required to ensure that the water supplied is wholesome and clean. Water which is wholesome and clean is defined as water which is free from any micro-organisms and parasites and from any substances which in numbers or concentrations constitute a potential danger to human health, and which meets the quality standards specified in the Schedule to the Regulations. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is the supervisory authority with responsibility for monitoring Irish Water’s compliance with these regulations.
In the event of non-compliance with the quality standards set out in these Regulations, the water supplier will investigate the cause and, in consultation with the EPA and, if a potential risk to human health may exist, the Health Service Executive, ensure that the appropriate remedial action is taken. The Water Services (No.2) Act 2013 requires the CER to perform its functions in a manner that best serves the interests of the customers of Irish Water. This is similar to the CER’s statutory role in respect of the gas and electricity sectors. I fully expect that the CER will consider compliance with statutory standards by Irish Water in the discharge of its functions.
The Government has decided, following consideration of proposals in relation to the funding model for Irish Water, 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 through actual data from metering. There are no plans to provide addition allowances, other than those recently announced by the Government.
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 Minister for Health and the Health Services Executive. There are no plans at present to provide communal public taps in community locations.
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 the Government’s recent decisions relating to domestic water charges, including to ensure the water charges plan makes provision for circumstances where the quality of water services provided by Irish Water to customers is impaired or where services are reduced or restricted (e.g. customers with boil water notices). As required by the Act, a draft of the policy direction has issued to the CER and the Joint Oireachtas Committee for the Environment, Culture and the Gaeltacht, and has been published in Iris Oifigiúil. The draft direction is currently open for public consultation and details are available on my Department’s website at
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.