I have previously addressed this matter in my reply to Question No. 448 of 1 May 2018.
Article 9 of the Water Framework Directive requires member states to take account of the principle of the recovery of the costs of water services, including environmental and resource costs, in accordance with the 'polluters pays principle'. Cost recovery must have regard to an economic analysis of the costs associated with the provision of water services, including long-term forecasts undertaken for the purpose of Article 5 and Annex III of the Directive.
Article 9 also sets out the need to ensure adequate incentives for users to use water resources efficiently, and for an adequate contribution of the different water users (industry, households and agriculture) to the recovery of costs. Furthermore, Article 9 allows members states, where it is established practice, to not apply the provisions of cost recovery where this does not compromise the purpose and objectives of the Directive.
In summary, it is necessary to ensure that cost recovery systems are in place that are adequate to meet the long-term investment needs for the provision of safe drinking water and adequate urban waste water treatment in order to meet required public health and environmental needs, and also that these systems promote efficient water use and avoid wastage.
The recommendations of the special Oireachtas Committee, which provided for the suspension of domestic water charges and the funding of normal domestic water usage through general taxation, including application of an excess charge for water use above an agreed threshold, and the supporting legislation enacted through the Water Services Act 2017 address the requirements of the Directive and, in particular, ensure that water resources will be used efficiently and not wasted.
In relation to the previous River Basin Management Plan which covered the period 2009 to 2015, it gave a commitment to the introduction of legislation that would enable local authorities to charge domestic water users for water services in a manner which provides incentives for efficient water use and which recovers an adequate contribution of the costs of water services. The River Basin Management Plan for Ireland 2018-2021 published recently updates this position by reflecting the legislative position in the Water Services Act 2017.