Water charges are fast approaching for families in Ireland

Irish households will soon face the reality of annual water charges of €370 a year

Eoin Clarke
by Eoin Clarke on 10th January, 2013

When charging is introduced into Ireland next year, households are facing the prospect of water bills that, on average, will be as much as €370 a year.

The Government aims to raise €500m through introducing charges for domestic water. This change will impact on 1.35m households, and result in large bills.

Official IMF documents show information about the expected charge. The documents reveal that the European Commission has been told by the Coalition how much it expects to raise when water metering charges begin in 2015. That figure is expected to be €500m.

The average monthly cost for families, once metering is introduced, will be over €30, which will amount to water charges of €370 for the whole year. When homeowners receive their first bills has still not been determined.

The IMF expect that the charges will begin in 2013 – after the end of the bailout programme. Up until now Ireland has been one of the few OECD countries not to charge for water usage by its population. Bills in member states that do charge for water usage average between €100 to €400 a year, with the average cost in the UK being €400.

To soften the blow, the Government will offer homeowners a ‘free’ annual water allowance, covering basic needs such as sanitation. After then, however, charges will be applied.

Irish Water, the company that will be collecting the bills, expects 90% to pay the water charges, but it will still take another three years for water meters to be installed in the whole of the country. These customers will be charged a flat rate on an ‘assessed’ average usage until the meters have been installed.

The water metering programme is set to be completed by the summer of 2016. Installation work is scheduled to start in the summer of next year. There are 300,000 homes that will be exempt from the new charges as they have a private water supply.

The Commission for Energy Regulation (CER), which is an independent regulator, will make a decision as to how much free water is available to households before the charges are put into place.

Currently, supplying water to homes and businesses in Ireland costs €1.2bn yearly, and €500m is spent on maintaining and upgrading the system. In addition, another €200m comes from charges for businesses. Domestic customers will make up the additional €500m operational costs.

Though domestic water customers who refuse to pay are unlikely to be cut off, there will be the likelihood of a reduction in water pressure which will make washing machines and dishwashers unusable. Alternatively, those who don’t pay may end up having a charge made against their property.