European Commission questions NI water charges decision

This is fourth in the series looking at articles relating to water charges in Northern Ireland.  The BBC article is dated August 22 2016.  It was published after Britain's EU referendum June 2016 but before Teresa May triggered Article 50 March 2017.  The point about timing is how would Brexit affect this EU pilot case or indeed Stormont's commitment to the EU Water Framework Directive.  Wouldn't it be interesting to find out the outcome?

We have contacted the EU Commission Representative for NI (incidentally in London) about any outcomes and as soon as we get their answer, if any, we will let you know. 


European Commission questions NI water charges decision

By Conor Macauley BBC NI
Agriculture & Environment Correspondent

The European Commission has asked questions about the Northern Ireland Executive's decision not to charge homeowners for water.

Stormont officials have refused to give any details citing confidentiality.

Homeowners will not face bills until at least March 2017, after MLAs ruled to defer charges.

Instead, the executive pays the cost of £280m a year to NI Water. Further legislation is expected to extend the policy.

However, the decision could mean that the authorities are not complying with European rules on water quality.

The EU Water Framework Directive envisages that users should pay for their water to promote conservation.

'Pilot case'

Officials in Northern Ireland make the case that people do that through their regional rate.

Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK not to levy a charge on homes, although businesses do pay charges.

That has prompted a debate with calls for the introduction of a charge on homes to pay for improvements in infrastructure.

Now, the European Commission has opened a so-called "pilot case" to look at the issue.

Essentially, this is a way for the commission to establish whether EU rules are being correctly applied.

It allows for the commission and member states to resolve any conflicts without resorting to infringement proceedings.

The Department of Agriculture Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) said it could not comment on the detail of the case.

"It is the subject of a confidential dialogue with the Commission and the release of further details could potentially prejudice the outcome of those discussions," said the department.

The two sides get about 20 weeks to try and sort out their differences.

Many cases are resolved without going to a formal hearing.

Source: BBC News NI, Aug 22 2016


The Irish Government has already spent €650 million on domestic meter's even though International Research has proven that identification of excessive use of water is not justified by the massive expenditure required by the installation of domestic meters.

They are also proposing to spend an additional 300 to 500 million Euros to complete the domestic metering programme plus an annual cost of €30 to 50 millionto administer billing associated with these meters.

Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland Water Board's have invested their money in top of the range District metering to identify and repair leakage on the system while the Irish Govt allows 55% of treated water to go to loss.  Listen to Scottish Water answer Fine Gael's Alan Farrell on the 'absolute efficiency' of district metering in this Oireachtas video clip.

The problem is this -- the Government, intent on privatisation and charging households, were never interested in impartial international research and findings.    If they did they would never have gone down the road of domestic metering.  However, having done so, the Government will not now admit their 650 million Euro mistake.

They would squander 1 billion euros plus rather than admit they got it wrong. They will agree to anything and everything in order to proceed with domestic metering. 

Bottom Line - NO METERING

Regulator says Irish Water should not proceed with metering

Commission for Energy Regulation also proposes financial incentives for homeowners

by Sarah Bardon

So far 58% of households have had meters put in place but several hundred thousand properties remain to be linked

So far 58% of households have had meters put in place but several hundred thousand properties remain to be linked

Irish Water should stop installing water meters in homes, the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) has declared, warning that the cost of completion will cripple efforts to improve water quality and supply.

In a submission to an Oireachtas committee which is investigating options, the CER – Ireland’s water regulator – said finishing the programme was not a priority.

So far 58 per cent of households have had meters put in place – the installation efforts have been strongly opposed in some places – but several hundred thousand properties remain to be linked. No money has been put in Irish Water’s 2017/18 capital budget to finish the work.

“If a decision was taken to complete further metering then either significant additional funding would have to be made available or a significant level of necessary capital expenditure would have to be deferred from other priorities for water investment for the time period 2017-2018,” the CER.

CER also proposes that householders should be given the option of installing a meter which would entitle them to a tax rebate if they use less water than the average. Grants should be given to people who invest in water-saving measures, while it also proposes that the installation of meters in new houses and estates should be mandatory.

Expert commission

The regulator made the submission to the newly-established Oireachtas committee examining the future of water charges. The committee was established last year to consider a report by an expert commission.

This commission proposed water be funded by general taxation and each household be given an average allowance to be determined by the CER.

The regulator says it will consult publicly before deciding on allowances and and penalties for excessive usage.

In a separate submission, Irish Water said €13 billion must be invested in Ireland’s water and waste-water services to ensure safe drinking water and proper sewage treatment.

Irish Water said it does not believe water services should be funded wholly or largely through the Exchequer since this would put investment in competition with public spending demands. It said guaranteed funding was needed.

“Shortfall in funding tends to disproportionately affect the performance of the system since fixed costs [staff, chemicals, and energy] must be met, so that any shortfalls have a direct and rapid impact on the condition of the assets and the operation of the service.”


If funding is to come from general taxation then legislation will be needed to ensure that income is guaranteed. The utility has required additional funding from the Exchequer since water charges were suspended.

Irish Water confirmed that €714 million would be needed this year – the annual €475 million subvention plus €239 million replacement revenue in lieu of previous domestic billable income.

The Oireachtas committee will meet Thursday to hear from Irish Water, the CER and officials from the Department of Housing.

Source: Irish Times, Jan 11 2017