Use water meters to charge for excessive consumption, EU urges

Letter from European Commissioner says any policy must comply with 'polluter pays' principle

Environment Commissioner Karmenu Vella has written to the Oireachtas committee examining the future of water services. Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times

Environment Commissioner Karmenu Vella has written to the Oireachtas committee examining the future of water services. Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times

 

The European Commission has urged the Government to charge for excessive and wasteful use of water through the metering programme.

Environment Commissioner Karmenu Vella has written to the Oireachtas committee examining the future of water services .

Mr Vella said he respected the political process unfolding but insisted any decision must be in compliance with the Water Framework Directive.

The Commissioner the Directive was flexible but any policy must comply with the polluter pays and cost recovery principle, which he says is “fundamental”.

Mr Vella said the recovery of costs from the consumer must ensure the water sector meets its demands in terms of maintenance and investment in water and wastewater services.

Letter:

“In order for the charge on excessive or wasteful use of water to attain its purpose, the consumption of water for normal use should be set as a reasonable level, and the charge for excessive or wasteful use of water should be dissuasive.

“The completion of metering will be instrumental to this effect.”

The Oireachtas committee examining the future of water charges is to make a decision by March on the future of water charges.

The Commission for Energy Regulation has said the metering programme should not continue at present.

However, the European Commission is stressing meters may be necessary to identify the waste of water.

Sinn Féin’s TD Eoin O’Broin criticised Mr Vella was meddling in what was the business the Oireachtas committee.

Mr O’Broin said: “Commissioner Vella’s assertion that the charge for excessive or wasteful water use should be dissuasive is code for punitive.

“Nowhere in his correspondence to the Minster does the Commissioner refer to the needs of families or households that may have additional water requirements due to family size or medical reasons. This is a clear attempt by the Commissioner to ensure that if an excess waste water charge is introduced the charge itself would be excessive.”