Earlier date set for water charges


WATER TAX:THE GOVERNMENT is to examine the merits of establishing an authority to oversee the introduction of water metering and charges in the State.

The draft memorandum says the independent study would be undertaken to introducing household water charges in 2012 or 2013, earlier than the 2014 date mentioned in the National Recovery Plan.

The study would determine if transferring responsibility for water services provision from local authorities would be beneficial. A timeline for its completion has not yet been set.

In the National Recovery Plan, the Government elected not to introduce an interim flat rate of residential water tax pending the installation of meters in 1.2 million homes connected to the public water mains supply.

It is understood a water authority would assume responsibility for installing and reading meters and billing households. However, it has not yet been decided if it will be a private utility or public body.

A spokesman for the Department of the Environment said the assessment would examine the merits of establishing a water regulator, with powers something similar to what the National Roads Authority has over roads.

The assessment was not a commitment to establish such an office but to see if it would be worthwhile.

Some €550 million from the National Pensions Reserve Fund has been earmarked to be used to fund the installation programme, which is to be repaid from 2014.

The rates of the proposed water tax have yet to be set, but the Government is expected to provide a free allowance of 40 litres for each person each day.

The National Recovery Plan said the Government would consider providing commercial opportunities for utility companies through the introduction of water metering as a means of creating employment.

The plan said water charges would reduce the general government investment required to fix and maintain water infrastructure, reduce leaks, meet future water demands and comply with the EU water framework directive.