The Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government, Fergus O’Dowd T.D., has (2 December, 2013) welcomed publication of the Water Services (No. 2) Bill today, which provides for the transfer of water services functions from the local authorities to Irish Water. Welcoming its publication, Minister O’Dowd said: “This Bill paves the way for fundamental reform of water services delivery in this country, services that currently cost over €1billion a year. A national, public utility providing water services and infrastructure, underpinned by a sustainable funding model, will help to ensure greater security of quality water supply for Irish people and the economy. Independent, economic regulation of Irish Water’s services, and charges, by the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER), will ensure customers are protected.” Irish Water is due to take over responsibility for the delivery of water services on January 1st 2014.
Commenting on the Government’s proposed reforms, Minister O’Dowd stated: “In producing this Bill, the Government has charted a new way for water and wastewater service delivery. Through increased investment, Irish Water will be able to deliver the level of infrastructure needed to meet demographic, economic and environmental requirements in the years and decades ahead. This will help guarantee security of supply in the future for communities and businesses. It will also position Ireland’s economy to attract water-intensive industries such as ICT and pharma-chem as the world faces a 40% water deficit by 2030.”
Minister O’Dowd added: “The provision for service level agreements between local authorities and Irish Water, contained in this Bill, will see the continued involvement of local authorities in service delivery at the local level for the next 12 years. This will see the local expertise in assets management and operations combined with the considerable network and utility management experience available to Irish Water. I am very confident this will prove to be a positive collaborative arrangement.”
On the provision for independent, economic regulation of the water sector, the Minister said: “Irish Water will be regulated from an economic perspective by the CER. Irish Water will be required to prepare water charges plans setting out details of its tariffs and related matters included payment methods and these plans, including the tariffs, will be subject to the approval of the CER. In discharging this role the CER will play an important role in controlling the costs of Irish Water and protecting the interests of customers more generally by approving codes of practice to be adopted by Irish Water. Work is being progressed on the approach to the proposed free allowance and affordability measures which will be introduced by Government to ameliorate the impact of water charges on domestic customers.”
Minister O’Dowd also highlighted the Bill’s provisions regarding Irish Water’s plans’ coherence with national and regional policies. “Policy coherence between water and other sectors is fundamental to promoting balanced economic growth. Irish Water’s strategic plans will have to be consistent with the National Spatial Strategy, the regional planning guidelines and the Water Framework Directive’s river basin management plans. There will also be coordination between Irish Water’s capital investment plans, local and county development plans, and will be produced in consultation with the EPA and regional and planning authorities. This will help ensure coherence between water services and infrastructural planning and other socio-economic policies, driven by a long-term sustainable approach.”