Irish Water to become national water services authority tomorrow
Public ownership of Irish Water guaranteed in Water Services No. 2 Act 31.12.2013 [No. 50/2013]
The Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Phil Hogan T.D., has said the transfer of statutory responsibility for water and wastewater services to Irish Water from local authorities tomorrow marks “a momentous event for water services delivery in Ireland.” On 1 January 2014, Irish Water becomes the national water services authority and will be responsible for delivering water and wastewater services to homes and businesses. It will be regulated by the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) and the EPA.
Speaking in advance of the transfer day, Minister Hogan commented: “After extensive work and planning by a range of stakeholders, Irish Water begins work as the national water utility tomorrow. This major reform will drive improvements in water services and provide security of water supply for the public and economy in the coming years and decades. Through these reforms we are also creating jobs, through the domestic metering programme and the establishment of Irish Water’s customer contact call centre. Security of supply will only exist if we increase investment in infrastructure and create a sustainable funding model for water services. These will happen as part of reform. Security of supply will position Ireland’s economy well to attract water-intensive industries such as ICT, pharma-chem and agri-food in the years ahead as other countries face increasing water deficits.”
Minister Hogan expressed his appreciation to all those involved in the reform process. “I’d like to thank everyone involved in implementing the transition to date. In particular I’d like to thank the local government sector and Irish Water for their collaborative planning of the changes in responsibility and delivery, and the ongoing work which will see assets and liabilities transfer under the Water Services No.2 Act during 2014. Local authorities have provided water and wastewater services for over 100 years, and have done so with great dedication. I want to acknowledge this, and also their future role in providing services on behalf of Irish Water through service level agreements (SLAs). SLAs will see the local expertise in assets management and operations combined with the considerable network and utility management experience available to Irish Water.”
The Minister added: “Tomorrow is only the beginning of a transformation process that will take time. The journey will require new relationships between different players in the water sector, and on-going engagement between Irish Water and the public. Embedding new systems and practices, increasing investment and tackling challenges such as high leakage rates will happen over several years. A particular focus will be placed during 2014 on all aspects of water conservation, to ensure that we manage our water resources in a sustainable manner and customers are informed on ways in which they will be able to manage their water usage when meters are in place. On-going collaboration, focus and commitment are required from all. With such an approach, Ireland will have a world class water sector.”
The Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government, Fergus O’Dowd T.D., who brought the Water Services No. 2 Act 2013 through the Oireachtas said the legislation contains important safeguards for the public. “The new Act contains a power of ministerial direction to Irish Water or the CER, if required. This is a vital safeguard for the public, to ensure they receive a high quality service and are protected at all times. Equally important to the public is certainty that Irish Water and its assets will remain in State ownership. The Act prohibits Irish Water’s board, the Minister for the Environment or the Minister for Finance from selling their company shares. Ownership of this fundamental resource must and will remain with the Irish people.”
- On 1 January 2014, Irish Water becomes the national water services authority, assuming responsibility for water and wastewater services to domestic and non-domestic customers (except those in group water schemes).
- The Commission for Energy Regulation becomes the new independent, economic regulator of the water sector, mandated to protect customers’ best interests. It will scrutinise and determine Irish Water’s budget, capital plans and the level of water charges.
- Local authorities will provide certain services on behalf of Irish Water through a 12 year SLA, commencing on 1 January 2014.
- The transfer of water services assets and liabilities to Irish Water from local authorities will happen on a phased basis, commencing in January 2014.
- Domestic water charges will commence from 1 October 2014, with households receiving their first bills from January 2015.
- Section 26 of the Water Services No. 2 Act 2013 provides for a written ministerial direction from the Minster for the Environment, Community and Local Government to Irish Water in relation to performance of its functions under the Act, requiring it to comply with government policies as specified in the direction. Irish Water must comply with such directions.
- Section 42 of the Water Services No. 2 Act 2013 provides for a ministerial direction of a general policy nature to the CER as the Minster for the Environment, Community and Local Government considers appropriate. The CER must comply with such directions, and, if requested, provide the Minster with a written report of the measures it has taken to comply. There will be adequate consultation and advance notice of such directions.
- The Water Services Act 2013 provided for the establishment of Irish Water as a subsidiary of Bord Gáis Éireann under the Companies Acts. The Act provided that one share in the company was to be allocated to Board Gáis Éireann with the remaining shares allocated to the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government and to the Minister for Finance. The Water Services (No.2) Act 2013 prohibits Bord Gáis Éireann from alienating its share, and also prohibits the two Ministers from alienating their shares in Irish Water. This ensures that the public ownership of Irish Water is guaranteed by the legislation.
Water sector reform milestones reached
- Enactment of two Water Services Acts in 2013, establishing Irish Water; assigning economic regulation of the water sector to the CER; providing for the transfer of functions, assets and liabilities; as well as providing for SLAs, water metering and domestic water charges.
- Over 1 million household connections surveyed by local authorities in the domestic water connections survey (preparatory work required for metering).
- Commencement of Irish Water’s domestic metering programme: almost 80,000 households already metered.