Details of the measures being funded under the Multi-annual Rural Water Programme 2019-2021 were notified to local authorities by my Department on 8 February 2019. Local authorities were invited to submit their bids for the funding of schemes or projects in their functional areas, with the deadline for receipt of proposals set as 14 March 2019.
My Department is currently considering local authorities' bids, including for group water schemes, for funding allocations. An Expert Panel has been put in place to support the evaluation process. In addition to providing an expert perspective, the Panel brings independence, openness and transparency to the bids evaluation process which is done on a national prioritised basis. The Expert Panel’s membership includes Departmental, stakeholder and independent representation.
The Expert Panel will make recommendations to my Department on the suitability of schemes and projects for funding based on objective criteria which are set out in the framework document issued to local authorities when requesting proposals. My Department will then consider the recommendations of the Panel, and based on these, will propose allocations for the duration of the funding cycle, for my consideration as Minister. I expect this process to be completed later in the second quarter of 2019.
The Vote of my Department provides for €23 million in capital funding for the programme in 2019, an increase of €3 million from the previous programme which finished in 2018. A total of €75 million in capital funding has been committed to the programme under the National Development Plan to 2021.
From within the capital allocation for the Multi-annual Rural Water Programme in 2019, a provision of €4 million has been made for the grants scheme for individual wells and €1.25 million in respect of on-site wastewater treatment systems (more commonly known as septic tanks). These amounts will be kept under review throughout 2019, having regard to the level of demand.
Provision for current funding of €24 million has been made for 2019 to recoup to local authorities annual subsidy payments made by them to group water schemes.
The grants schemes for individual wells and domestic wastewater treatment systems, as well as the annual subsidy for group water schemes, are demand-led. Decisions on individual grant or subsidy approvals are made on an on-going basis by local authorities, rather than through a single allocation process.