Watery depths: a drop by drop guide to charges

Here is a lowdown on the reality behind turning on your taps in an era of charges.

Nicely timed to get in ahead of Budget Day, water charges are finally here. Since October 1st, households all across the country have been slowly adjusting to the regime and registering with Irish Water.

But whether you have registered or not, if you’re still not 100 per cent clear as to what the new regime might mean, here is some further guidance to aid you.

How do I apply to register as a customer of Irish Water?

There are three ways of applying to register as a customer: either fill out the form you’ve been sent; take the application number and pin number you received with it, and log on to www.water.ie and fill out the form online; or do it by telephone (1890 448 448 or +353 1 707 2824).

I haven’t received any documents yet - what should I do?

You can contact Irish Water at 1890 278 278 and ask for an application form to be sent out to you – be warned though that you may have to wait a while to get through.

If you don’t register by October 31st, you will have a further 60-day grace period to do so and claim back your allowances. However, if you don’t register by then, you’ll find that water will end up costing you more, as Irish Water says it will apply a standard charge of €424. This charge is higher than the average because it doesn’t include the free allowance of 30,000 litres a year. Moreover, it is based on a two-adult household – so if there’s only one of you, you’ll be paying too much by not registering.

How is water being charged from October 1st?

If you don’t have a septic tank, and need both water in, and wastewater out, the basic charge which will apply will be €4.88 per 1,000 litres (or €0.005 per litre), or €2.44 for just water in. These charges are set till the end of 2016.

Given that so many households don’t yet have a meter, a fixed assessed charge is being used for the first nine months (see table). This means that a household of two adults and two children will pay €278.16 on an annual basis for their water, or €69.54 every three months.

Does this mean that I need to start saving water now?

Well, as your water usage won’t actually be measured until you have your meter installed, you don’t have to worry too much about whether or not you should water the plants from the tap or how long you spend in the shower – just yet.

However, if you end up using less than the estimated norms, you will be entitled to apply for a rebate, so there is an incentive to use less. You will get this rebate once your meter is installed and you can demonstrate that you use less water than the estimates, in the form of a rebate. However, if it takes quite a while for a meter to be installed on your property – and you may not get one until 2016 – you’ll have unnecessarily given Irish Water some of your money for up to two years. It will take up to six months, once you have a meter installed, to get the credit for your rebate.

How and when will I pay?

The first Irish Water bill will start arriving from January 1st, and when it does come, you’ll be able to pay your bills in a number of ways: by direct debit by filling out the Sepa direct debit mandate in your application form; by cash anywhere you see the Paypoint, Payzone or PostPoint signs or at any Post Office; cheque; electronic fund transfer; or by debit and credit card.

Should you opt to fill out the direct debit mandate, Irish Water says that this will be deducted 14 days after the bill date, “similar to the terms offered by other utilities”. It could not however give us the exact date at which this money will be debited.

How much will I pay in January?

In January, you will pay a bill for the period October 1st, 2014, to December 31st, and will continue to pay on a quarterly basis thereafter, with bills issued every three months. This means that a single-occupancy household on both the public network for water in and water out, and in receipt of the household allowance, can expect to pay €44 in January. A two-person household that falls into this category can expect to pay €69.54 and so on.

What allowances can I get and how do I claim them?

An allowance of 30,000 litres a year is granted to each residence (worth approximately €146), with a further 21,000 litres per child aged 17 or younger (worth €102 per child).

To ensure that you get the allowance for children, you must also include the PPS numbers of your children in your application form (see below).

If it ends up that you don’t fully use your allowances, these will be carried forward to the following year.

Why is Irish Water asking for my PPS number?

Irish Water says your PPS number will be “stored securely” and will be used to verify with the

Department of Social Protection

whether or not you should be entitled to water services allowances or the unoccupied dwelling charge.

So, if you’re entitled to an allowance – and you typically will be – then you must give this information. However, you only need to give one adult PPS per household (regardless of the number of adult inhabitants) to claim the household allowance. The PPS numbers of all children are required to claim the children’s allowance.

According to a spokeswoman for Irish Water, “it is not possible for Irish Water to allocate this Government allowance without a PPS number to verify entitlement”.

Irish Water says that any data it collects is used only to provide water and waste water services.

“For example, it may be necessary for a contractor to visit a customer’s property to repair a leak. In that circumstance Irish Water would have to give the contractor a customer name and address. This would also apply to our contact centre, which is also outsourced.”

Also of potential concern to homeowners is another section in the application form which, if you tick, gives permission to “authorised agents” acting on behalf of Irish Water to contact you “about water-related products or services which may be of interest to you”.

Irish Water says that it may, from time to time, include a “bill insert” promoting water-saving devices in documentation you receive.

“We will not be passing customer data to third parties for the purpose of marketing,” the spokeswoman says. But, if you don’t want to risk a deluge of marketing material, be sure to tick this box.

When will I get a meter?

As long as you don’t have a meter, you will pay the assessed charge, until such time as a meter is installed. About 400,000 homes already have meters, and Irish Water says it is “on target” to have over one million meters installed by mid-2016. There is no direct cost to any householders for the installation of a water meter.

Do I have to pay for my holiday home?

Yes, but you can pay the so-called “minimum charge” which applies to residences not permanently occupied. This costs €62.50 for water each way, or €125 for both charges.

I’m renting my home – do I have to pay the charges?

Yes, the charges are applicable to occupiers of a property. So, if you’re renting a property you will probably have received the documentation already, and it is up to you to register and to pay for the charges.

If the property is vacant, then the landlord is liable for the charges. Water use: Flushing, showering, brushing your teeth ... here's how to cut down on costly consumption While metering doesn't come in for another nine months, it's worth getting you and your family in the habit of saving water and therefore money. Who knows, if you're frugal enough you may find that you're due a rebate once you get a meter!

BATHROOM

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It’s likely that bathrooms all around the country will start getting that little bit smellier as water bill payers restrict flushing. If your cistern is old, a flush will use up to nine litres of water, so consider placing a displacement device in it – such as a bottle – which will reduce the amount of water you use when you flush.

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It may seem mean, but restricting the time your family spends in the shower will save you money. A power shower will set you back about 38 cents, while a regular shower will cost you about half that. So consider getting a timer if you favour greater water pressure.

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Finally, turn the tap off when brushing your teeth or shaving. It has been estimated that a running tap wastes more than six litres of water a minute, or over 7,000 litres a year, so turn it off.

KITCHEN

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Don’t be tempted to run the washing machine or dishwasher if you don’t have a full load.

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Don’t fill your kettle unnecessarily – if you’re just having a cup of coffee for one, measure it out first. It will also help you save on your electricity bill.

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Use a basin in the sink– you can use any left-over water for the garden.

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Make sure you don’t have any leaks

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One option to reduce your usage is to buy a water-saving shower head (you can expect to pay about €20 for one) which promises to reduce the amount of water that flows from your shower to just eight litres per minute.

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Another option is to get a restricter for your tap, for about €6. This will reduce the water flow to about 4.5 litres per minute without affecting the water pressure. Alternatively, you can consider opting for a stronger flow for your kitchen, which would deliver about 7.2 litres a minute. GARDEN

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If you want to protect an outside tap, consider getting a lock for it, which will cost you between €20 and €30.

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Get a water butt. They work by collecting water from your roof by connecting to a downpipe, and the water can be used to water your garden, clean you r car, or any activity which doesn’t require drinking water. You can buy a butt for €40. Watch out for how much water it can store, and whether or not it comes with a downpipe kit. Consider a solar-powered pump to get the water out of the butt.

Water has become another commoditised utility. Here is a lowdown on the reality behind turning on your taps

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