I propose to take Questions Nos. 218 and 235 together.
Since 1 January 2014, Irish Water has statutory responsibility for all aspects of water services planning, delivery and operation at national, regional and local levels. Irish Water’s primary function is to provide clean safe drinking water to customers and to treat and return wastewater safely to the environment. In providing these critical services Irish Water plays a role in enabling social and economic growth, protecting the environment and the health and safety of the public.
The report of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on the Future Funding of Domestic Water Services published in April 2017 and approved by both Houses of the Oireachtas together with the Government approved recommendations of the Report of the Working Group on the Future Funding of Domestic Water Services, primarily involve, inter alia, all State funding to Irish Water in respect of domestic water services, as determined through the regulatory process, being channelled in future through my Department's Vote. The future funding of Irish Water in respect of domestic water services will therefore be from general taxation, in the form of a payment for domestic water services, based on the purchase of water covering the entirety of domestic water consumption, other than excessive use, and a contribution to replace the financing of the domestic component of capital investment previously funded by debt and a capital contribution from Central Funds.
Irish Water is being provided with a funding provision of €1.1 billion through my Department’s Vote in 2018 to meet the cost of domestic water services, of which €500m relates to capital investment, the latter representing the major component of the overall planned capital investment of over €600m in cash terms by Irish Water in 2018.
The first ever Water Services Policy Statement, prepared in line with the Water Services Acts, which I launched on 21 May 2018, outlines a clear direction to strategic planning and decision making on water and wastewater services in Ireland. It identifies key policy objectives and priorities for the delivery of water and wastewater services in Ireland over the period to 2025. The Water Services Policy Statement sets out a series of high-level policy objectives across the three thematic areas of Quality, Conservation, and Future Proofing, which must be pursued when planning capital investment and framing current spending plans. It will provide the context within which necessary funding and investment plans by Irish Water will be framed and agreed.
On foot of this Water Services Policy Statement, Irish Water’s forthcoming Strategic Funding Plan will set out the costs of providing domestic and non-domestic water services and the recovery of those costs. It will distinguish between operational and capital expenditure, and provide projections of income over the multi-annual period 2020-2024 inclusive, which will align with the next full regulatory period. Subject to my approval of the Strategic Funding Plan, it will feed into the allowed revenue determination for Irish Water by the Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU), as the economic regulator of Irish Water, and ultimately feed into future annual estimates and budgetary processes.
Irish Water’s next Investment Plan for the five year period from 2020 to 2024 will set out the financial plan for capital investments to support its strategic objectives, as set out in the Water Services Strategic Plan and the forthcoming Strategic Funding Plan, to deliver improvements to water services throughout Ireland where they are needed most. Irish Water’s Water Services Strategic Plan (WSSP) published in October 2015 already sets out a high level strategy over 25 years to ensure the provision of clean safe drinking water, effective management of wastewater, environmental protection and support for economic and social development.
Irish Water will also take account of developing subsidiary programmes within its investment plan to assist in implementing the National Planning Framework and the National Development Plan, including the forthcoming Regional Spatial and Economic Strategies as well as ongoing reviews of County Development Plans and Local Area Plans.
Irish Water continues to develop and implement a long-term investment perspective in order to strategically address the deficiencies in the public water and wastewater system. The utility is implementing the capital investment programme which prioritises investment decisions to ensure that it utilises available funding most effectively by making investments that deliver the best possible improvements to water and wastewater infrastructure and services, while maximising value for money.
A substantial proportion of investment by the State through Irish Water over the next ten years will be focused on programmes to improve compliance with relevant public health and environmental standards. This will involve implementation of the measures contained within the River Basin Management Plan for Ireland 2018-2021 and the achievement of the outcomes identified.
Irish Water has established a dedicated team to deal with representations and queries from public representatives. The team can be contacted via email to firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone on a dedicated number, 1890 578 578.