The abstraction of water is governed by the Water Supplies Act 1942, which deals with the abstraction of water for public drinking water supply purposes only. Under this Act, there are no requirements to be met in respect of licensing or charging for abstractions for bottled water, or indeed for other purposes.
However, the Water Framework Directive requires that abstractions of surface water or groundwater which are likely to have a significant effect on water status must be regulated. My Department has been examining how best to address this requirement in a proportionate and efficient way. After approval in 2018 of a General Scheme of a Water Environment (Abstractions) Bill which would introduce a control and registration system over the abstraction of water, my Department undertook a public consultation, which resulted in 28 submissions.
Following examination of those submissions and refinement of the policy approach, I will be returning to Government shortly with a revised General Scheme to give effect to our obligations under the Directive and to introduce a licensing and control system over the abstraction of water generally.
In advance of the primary legislation, and in order to build up a nationwide picture of abstractions, a requirement to register water abstractions in excess of 25 cubic metres per day with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has already been introduced by way of secondary legislation under the European Union (Water Policy) (Abstractions Registration) Regulations 2018. This has been put in place to enable the EPA to assess where particular water pressures as a result of abstraction might exist and, accordingly, better manage abstractions in areas of high risk in the future. The register is maintained by the EPA and I understand that it does not provide for the specific identification of abstractions for the purposes of bottled water.
There will be further opportunity to contribute to development of the provisions to be contained in the planned legislation when I submit the revised General Scheme of the Water Environment (Abstractions) Bill for pre-legislative scrutiny.
I expect that a proportionate abstraction control regime will effectively manage abstraction risks and pressures without imposing an unnecessary regulatory burden. Recognising the relatively low abstraction pressures in Ireland, the proposed regime will focus on the most significant volumes and pressures.
It should be noted that requirements in relation to the standards of bottled waters are laid out in the European Union (Natural Mineral Waters, Spring Waters and Other Waters in Bottles or Containers) Regulations 2016, which are a matter for my colleague, the Minister for Health.