By Seán McCárthaigh
Irish Examiner Reporter
The estimated €500 cost of installing a water meter in each household is expected to be passed on to consumers in the form of a standing charge on their water bills.
Irish Water revealed yesterday that homeowners and tenants will face no up-front charge for water meters but are likely to pay for the €539m nationwide project through a charge on their regular bills.
However, Irish Water chief executive John Tierney said it was likely that the cost of paying for the meter would be spread over a period of up to 20 years.
Mr Tierney also confirmed that a third of all residences in the country cannot be fitted with a water meter and are unlikely to face a standing charge on their bill.
Instead, the residents of around 500,000 homes, including most apartment complexes, will be subject to an assessed charge based on typical consumption levels for certain family sizes.
The exact nature of the charging system for water use, and the size of a free allowance per household, have still to be determined by the Commission for Energy Regulation.
However, industry sources have predicted that the annual household charge for water will average between €300 and €350.
It also emerged that just 420,000 homes will have meters fitted by the time charges are introduced in Oct 2014. The first bills will be issued in Jan 2015.
Mr Tierney said around 630,000 homes, which will eventually be fitted with meters, will be subject to assessed charges until such time as meters are installed.
Irish Water announced yesterday that 1,600 jobs will be created for the duration of the programme to install 1.05m meters outside homes across Ireland. The project is due to last until the end of 2016, with an average of 27,000 metersfitted each month.
Irish Water — a subsidiary of Bord Gáis established to oversee the introduction of a water metering system — said it was committed to allocating a quarter of the installation jobs to small businesses, people on the live register, graduates, and school-leavers.
Three regional contractors — GMC/Sierra, J Murphy & Sons, and Coffey Northumbrian — have been appointed to manage the installation project, with the first meters due to be fitted in Co Kildare next month.
Environment Minister Phil Hogan signalled earlier this week that the Government is considering a “first fix free” scheme for repairs to any leaks located between a water meter and the householder’s property.
It is estimated that 40% of the existing 25,000km network of water mains suffers leaks, with between 6% and 12% of leakage coming from the final section of pipes into households.
Mr Tierney also acknowledged that there would be a reduction in the number of people employed in the provision of water services from its current level of 4,000.
However, he stressed that there would be no enforced redundancies arising out of the transfer of water services from local authorities to Irish Water.