Households using too much water to face €500 charge as new proposals deemed 'completely unworkable'

Thousands of households will escape being charged for wasting water because they don’t have meters at their homes, it has been claimed.

The planned system for charging for excessive use has been branded as “completely unworkable”.

It comes after the Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU) signed off on Irish Water’s proposals for charges of up to €500 for households found to be wasting water.

Overuse of water is easily identified where meters have been installed, but is far more difficult to detect in the approximately 40pc of households – around 620,000 homes – that don’t have the devices.

The process of finding leaks or waste of water in those homes involves monitoring district meters and then conducting acoustic tests to identify the individual household.

Despite those challenges, the CRU said Irish Water was confident that these kinds of measures will provide an appropriate level of monitoring of customers who don’t have meters.

Irish Water, meanwhile, insisted all households “metered and unmetered will be measured and customers found to be using in excess will be liable for charges”.

Under the plans approved by the CRU, the first bills for wasting water are due to land with households in early 2021.

The excess use charge is €3.70 per 1,000 litres used over the annual free allowance for households that use fresh water and waste-water services.

The charges of any household will be capped at €500.

Customers can receive a medical need exemption or an additional occupancy allowance.

The CRU says the proposal for an excess water usage charge is aimed at encouraging conservation by householders to address leaks and discourage waste.

Research shows that up to 10pc of households which have water meters – around 80,000 homes – use more than the planned annual free allowance of 213,000 litres per year.

The proposals approved by the CRU include a procedure for Irish Water to assess, notify and, if required, charge customers for excess usage.

Customers will potentially be able to avail of the ‘First Fix Free’ scheme for leaks.

For unmetered customers, Irish Water can monitor district meter areas where there appears to be excess use.

Leakage and pressure investigation crews can be dispatched and, through listening and measuring supply at different points, are able to find households that may have leaks or be wasting water.

Irish Water will contact the customer and offer to install a meter, but if one can’t be installed, it will connect a flow-monitoring device.

Solidarity TD Paul Murphy – a long-time anti-water charge campaigner – described the planned regime of fees for excess use as “completely unworkable”.

He argued that the method for finding waste in homes without meters is “extremely long-winded”.

He claimed: “If people don’t have a meter, they won’t be facing charges and that creates a fundamental inequity.”

An Irish Water statement said: “Different approaches to metered and unmetered customers will need to be taken for technical reasons.”

It said its proposals for the new charges regime met the CRU’s principles for “equity and fairness”.

A CRU statement said it considered Irish Water’s approach “to be robust and to treat each customer type in an equitable and fair manner”.

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