IT’S COMING SOON: YOUR WATER BILL
The average charge for each house is expected to be €370
WELL OVER A million households across the country will be hit with more bills from sometime next year onwards, when charges begin to be applied for their domestic water supply.
The new fees will follow the introduction of the full Local Property Tax and the septic tank registration charge, and could well be the most unpopular yet, as people are asked to pay for something they see as a basic human right and something we simply cannot live without: a clean and reliable source of running water.
But what we Irish take for granted is not actually all that common in the developed world, as Ireland is one of the few countries in the OECD (Organisation for Economic CoOperation and Development) that does not charge for water usage. In the UK, for example, average bills for a household of two adults and two children equate to approximately €400 per annum. While no decision has yet been made as to the specific charges that will apply here from 2014 onwards, it can be calculated from the Government’s estimate that €500m will be raised from the 1.35 million households liable that the average charge per house will be in the region of €370.
The charges are being introduced because the Government is committed to doing so as part of the EUIMF Rescue Plan. This is because of the huge cost involved in actually providing a water supply to homes: estimated at some €1.2bn per year. However, many of the finer points have yet to be finalised.
For example, while installation of domestic water meters is due to begin from July of this year onwards, it is readily accepted that it will be impossible to have meters installed at all houses before the charges come into force. Likewise, there are many dwellings – such as apartments, and certain types of older houses – where it is just not possible to install meters to give an accurate record of water usage within. In these cases, a ‘flat fee’ is to be charged, though there is no indication yet as to what this is likely to be set at, or whether any allowance will be made for the difference between a single person living by themselves in a small apartment, say, and perhaps a large family living in much bigger house.
Nor is there even any indication as to when exactly the charges will come into force. While the Government is obliged to introduce the charge in 2014, it is not obliged to introduce it by any particular date other than December 31, and some commentators have predicted it will hold off on the charges until after the local elections due to be held in June next year, for fear of ‘protest’ votes against the coalition parties.
What is clear is that the Government intends to give each household a ‘free’ annual allowance of water, to cover basic sanitation needs, after which charges will apply. However, there is no indication either as to how generous or otherwise this allowance may actually be.
And if a household refuses to pay the charge? Sources say it is unlikely that they will be cut off completely from the water supply, but that a ‘ restrictor’ could instead be fixed to their mains supply.
Irish Water – a subsidiary of Bord Gáis, which is being established to oversee the installation of meters and introduction of charges – says it expects a 90 per cent compliance rate with regard to bills being paid.
A water meter.