Only 15% of homes to have meters in time for water bills

Wed, Oct 3, 2012, 01:00

ONLY 15 per cent of houses will have been provided with water meters by the time charges must be introduced in 2014, Bord Gáis has confirmed.

John Mullins, chief executive of Bord Gáis, which is in charge of Irish Water, last week said it would take 2½ to three years to fully install meters in the 1.05 million eligible homes.

However, the company has now confirmed that just over 75 per cent of homes are likely to have meters installed by the end of 2015 and that all qualifying homes would not have meters until the end of 2016.

Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan last April said universal metering would be in place for the introduction of charges in 2014 with the installation of meters starting by the end of this year.

It has now emerged that just 160,000 meters will have been installed by the beginning of 2014 and the type of meter will not be chosen until next year.

The proposed level of water charges will be published next July by the Commission for Energy Regulation, and will be followed by a public consultation process.

It is not yet known how the majority of people who will not have meters in 2014 will be charged. It is expected that an “assessed charge” will be put in place whereby households that do not have meters pay charges pegged to those of similar households that are metered.

The Government is committed under the EU-IMF rescue plan to start charging households for water in 2014 but is under no obligation to use meters to determine the charges. The introduction of “universal metering” is Government policy.

Bord Gáis is to seek tenders in the coming weeks for water meters and intends to have selected a national meter early next year. However, the boundary boxes, which are fitted into the ground at the stop cock to hold the meter, are being procured separately by the Department of the Environment. A spokesman for the department said it planned to seek tenders for the boundary boxes “later this year”.

It has also emerged that the meters and their boxes will be fitted separately, with the likelihood that separate contractors will be installing the meters and the boundary boxes.

The department will seek tenders at a later date for a panel of several hundred contractors to install water meters and boundary boxes. Separately, Bord Gáis is to go to tender next month for regional “management contractors”, who will delegate the job of installing both pieces of equipment to the panel of contractors.

“This is a major construction programme. They [the boundary box installers] will open up the ground, so there’s an excavation job, they will find the connection point . . . They have to set the box in the ground and carry out a pavement reinstatement exercise. Then the meter will be dropped in separately,” a Bord Gáis spokesman said.

Installation of meters is due to begin next July, but it is still not known where the meters will be located.

A pilot survey to establish the number and location of stopcocks in three local authority areas, Fingal, Kerry and Wexford, was due to begin this month. The surveys were “a little behind schedule”, the Bord Gáis spokesman said, adding that it was hoped they would begin by the middle of next month and they should be completed within three months of commencement.

Surveys of all local authority areas are due to start by the end of this year or early next year and are expected to be completed by the end of next March.

Bord Gáis will be writing to all households connected to the public water mains next May asking them to confirm personal details so as to be set up as customers of Irish Water. A call centre, which will eventually employ 400 people, will be set up before this letter is issued.