Most Republic of Ireland householders who paid water charges should get refunds by the end of the year, housing and local government minister Eoghan Murphy has confirmed. He has also announced that a new water charging regime will come into effect within 18 months, with householders facing financial penalties for excessive usage.
Confirmation of these moves came as the Irish Cabinet agreed how households will be paid back. These measures require new legislation, expected to be passed next month (October). Some 990,000 households are due refunds of up to €325. The refunds will cost the state some €173m not including up to €6m in administration costs. Irish Water will be responsible for administering the repayments.
The minister said €114 million would have to be transferred to Irish Water this year to cover the funding gap arising from the suspension of the charges. This would have to be drawn from central Government funding and would compete against other capital expenditure in the health and education sectors, Murphy explained.
For the new water charging regime, the Commission for Energy Regulation will set excessive usage at 1.7 times an average rate of usage, and fines or penalties will be applicable beyond that.
The minister said the water charges regime would come into force in January 2018. Households found to be wastefully using water will be notified by January 2019 and will then be given six months to rectify the problem before they face paying levies.
It is unknown if the new regime will satisfy the requirements of the EU’s Water Framework Directive in terms of water conservation and the polluter pays principle.