Claims by Irish Water that 61 per cent of its customers were now paying water charges have been rejected by one of the TDs most prominent in the anti-water charges campaign.
The utility said on Thursday that 61 per cent of customers were now paying water charges at the end of the third billing cycle compared to 55 per cent at the end of the second cycle and 44 per cent at the end of the first billing cycle.
It said a total of 928,000 customers had now paid “part or all of their bills”.
This meant 98,000 customers had paid charges for the first time in the past three months, it said.
Irish Water said total revenue from charges paid to date by domestic customers was €110.8 million.
Revenue received during the third billing cycle was €42.3 million, an increase from €38 million in the second billing cycle and €30.5 million in the first billing cycle.
"Overall payment levels from bill cycle three therefore show both an increasing number of customers now paying water charges, and increased revenue received to help fund the repair and improvement of water services in Ireland, " Irish Water said in a statement.
It said it would spend €522 million to start to address the “major deficits” in the drinking water and wastewater quality and capacity and to repair the most critical infrastructure in need of urgent investment in 2016.
Some 100 treatment plants were upgraded or under construction last year and 319 contracts were signed for new projects to improve water supply and wastewater treatment around the country, it said.
It said 2,200 customer leaks were under its “first fix” scheme, saving 26 million litres of water every day - enough to supply the town of Mullingar.
Anti-Austerity Alliance TD Paul Murphy said the figures released by Irish Water did not confirm that 61 per cent of customers were now paying water charges.
“They simply provide the figure that 928,000 people have paid at least some of their bill. That figure is utterly worthless – because it includes those who paid the first bill and then joined non-payment, and those who paid the first and second bill and then joined non-payment,” Mr Murphy said.
“While Irish Water claims that 98,000 people paid bills for the first time in the third billing period, they don’t tell us how many who had previously paid stopped paying. Therefore, we simply don’t know whether the number who paid the third bill increased or decreased, or what percentage paid.”
Mr Murphy said Irish Water claimed to have received €110.8 million in total revenue.
“In the first billing quarter, they claimed to have a target of €66.8 million. Multiplying that by three (for three quarters) gives a figure of €200.4 million – which is the total that they should have raised in revenue.
“What they have in revenue, €110.8 million is only 55 per cent of their targeted revenue – not 61 per cent.”
A spokeswoman for Irish Water, when asked about Mr Murphy’s comments, said it had been “completely transparent”in its figures and in publishing the exact percentage of customers who had paid and the exact revenue figure.
She said billing was on a “rolling” basis and it was not the case that a payment made in each billing cycle could be matched to a separate “pot” of money. Not all customers would have the same bill and not all would have the same amount outstanding.
“As it matures, it will be harder to break out that information, and no company would publish its billing information every quarter,” she added.
The Right2Water group plans further countrywide protests against water charges on January 23rd.