Q&A: Explaining the details of the water charges
How much it will cost, who will pay and what happens if you don’t pay . . .
How much for a glass of tap water? The Commission for Energy Regulation has published the details of how much we will have to pay when water charges are brought it
We knew we water charges were coming, so what’s the fuss now? Yesterday at noon, the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) published the details of how much we will actually have to pay.
€240 a year, right? Didn’t Phil Hogan tell us that back in May? Sort of. At the beginning of the summer, when Big Phil was still a minister, he published details of how the new water charging regime would work, but he stayed away from specifics. He said the average cost would be €240 a year for each household, but he was careful to say the final pricing details were left to the CER. It turns out that many consumers – particularly those living in urban areas – will have to pay substantially more than the average announced back then.
How much more? The cost of water for both consumption and for the disposal of waste for a household of two adults and two children will be €278. This is an assessed cost to be sanctioned by the CER. Water will cost €176 for a household with one adult and an extra €102 for every additional adult living in the household, for both water drinking water services and wastewater services.
And if you have a septic tank? If you have a septic tank, then you are not using public waste water services so you won’t have to pay for them and the cost of your water will be halved.
What about if the water is undrinkable unless it is boiled? There are many areas where the quality of water is very poor and undrinkable as a result. The CER has recognised this fact and in such areas, consumers will get a 50 per cent discount for the first three months that the water is deemed to be undrinkable and a 100 per cent discount if the water is not fit for human consumption for more than three months. Children go free, right? Some of them do, certainly. Under the rules, children under 18 will be given their water for nothing – at least some of it. The litre allowance has been reduced from the 38,000 litres initially announced by the Coalition to 21,000 litres because Irish Water came across some research that kids use less than they originally thought. That is not good news for parents – there is much worse news for the parents of children over t18 and still living at home. They will have to pay the full whack. This means that a family made up of two adults and three adult children will have to come up with an additional €584 each year
But I don’t have a meter. You should have one soon(ish). The Government has embarked on an accelerated metering programme to have them installed in about 80 per cent of homes by the middle of 2016. The Department of the Environment is also said to be exploring the potential to include a new phase of metering of 48,000 apartments. The metering is important because multiple studies show 16 per cent less water is used when metered.
What if I have a water meter installed? The €176 for the first adult and €102 for each subsequent adult is the assessed charge. People with water meters installed will have consumption-based charges and these are going to be charged at a rate of half of one cent – for water for both consumption and waste and half that again for those with a septic tank. People with meters will be capped at the above assessed charges for six months after the meter is installed. This means that during this time, they will have a meter but the charge will be no higher than the €176/€102. How much water am I likely to use each year? The average person uses about 52,000 litres of water, which means that using the CER’s figures, using metered water could end up costing €250 a year for each person. There will, however, be a free allowance of 30,000 litres of water for each household. However even if that is factored in, a home made up of two adults and two children under would still be spending about €370 a year on water if it was metered.
How do we go through so much water? A typical power shower uses about 80 litres of water a go so if someone has one every day it will cost them 38 cents, or €139 a year. A power shower is the Rolls Royce of showers, however, and should not be confused with a regular electric shower. That uses about 40 litres of water and will cost about €73 a year. Flushing a toilet uses 10 litres of water and if one is flushed 10 times a day, it could end up costing €150 a year. Filling a kettle four times a day will set you back €15 a year.
What about leaks? If a leak is identified in a home by Irish Water after a meter is installed, the customer’s charges will be capped at the assessed level until the leak is fixed. Irish Water has previously committed itself to fixing the first leak free to avoid people paying the price for legacy water issues.
I have a particularly medical issue which means I use a lot of extra water. Am I to be hit hardest? Customers with specific medical conditions which require increased water consumption will be capped at the assessed charge if they have a meter installed. Any water consumed above the assessed charge level will be free of charge.
What are the chances of the charges increasing? All we know about the current pricing structure is that it will last until the end 2016. After that, who knows. The bad news is that international studies would suggest that prices will climb. The average annual bill in the UK is €550, while German water charges can run to more than €700. Don’t be surprised if the charges double soon after the next election. What if I don’t pay my bill? They can’t just cut me off? No. What will happen is your water pressure will be reduced to a trickle. It will be enough to drink and keep your house fairly clean but that’ll be it.