To ask the Minister for Housing; Planning and Local Government the status of measures he has taken to introduce a BER style water conservation rating for buildings in line with the recommendations by the Oireachtas Committee on the Funding of Domestic Water Services; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
To ask the Minister for Housing; Planning and Local Government the measures he has taken to fund promote water conservation systems in line with the recommendations by the Oireachtas Committee on the Future Funding of Domestic Water Services; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
The provisions of the Report of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on the Future Funding of Domestic Water Services have now been largely legislated for, as required, in the Water Services Act 2017. Promoting the efficient and sustainable use of water is central to my Department’s water policy. The Government's Water Services Policy Statement 2018-2025, as published in May last year, sets out the range of policy objectives across the key thematic areas of quality, conservation and future proofing that will be pursued between now and 2025.
In relation to the specific recommendations relating to the introduction of a BER style water conservation rating for buildings, and measures to promote water conservation systems, I look forward in due course to receiving the advice of An Fóram Uisce in relation to further practical steps that may be taken in response to the recommendations of the Joint Oireachtas Committee's Report. This forms part of the work programme of An Fóram.
The issue of a rating system is just one element of promoting water conservation. Reflecting the provisions contained in the Water Services Act 2017 and, in line with the Report of the Joint Oireachtas Committee, the Water Services Policy Statement supports the promotion of water conservation and water resource management as an important element of water services policy that is reflected in strategic investment planning by Irish Water. For the period of the Policy Statement, this involves the prioritisation of multifaceted programmes around leak detection and repair, network improvements, cost effective metering, public awareness campaigns and funding to fix customer side leaks. The National Leakage Reduction Programme in particular includes investment of some €250 million over the next four years under the Find and Fix repair scheme and the Water Mains Rehabilitation programme.
Legislative provision to discourage the excessive use of water services was included in the Water Services Act 2017. Excessive usage is determined by reference to the threshold amount of 213,000 litres per household per annum as specified by ministerial order with effect from 1 January 2018, in line with provisions contained in sections 8 and 9 of the Water Services Act 2017.
Irish Water is responsible for developing and implementing the necessary administrative arrangements, including billing arrangements, subject to oversight and approval by the Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU).
It should be noted that in July 2019, the Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU) announced its final determination, following a comprehensive public consultation process, on the new excessive usage charges and charging arrangements that will apply to domestic households deemed to be using water services excessively i.e. using water services above the annual threshold allowance of 213,000 litres per household. The charges and charging arrangements now in place are consistent with the comprehensive overview set out in my letter of 15 July 2019 to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Housing, Planning and Local Government.
The overall aim is to encourage water conservation rather than to generate revenue. On this basis, I understand that Irish Water will work proactively with relevant customers to identify whatever practical steps may be necessary in order to address their situation and bring their consumption back within the threshold level. Additional allowance amounts for water usage will be available to larger households (where the number of residents exceeds four) and exemptions will be available in cases of medical need.
The Report of the Joint Oireachtas Committee recommended a proactive approach to promoting awareness of water conservation, and Irish Water places a strong emphasis on this important area. A dedicated section on the Irish Water website provides information in relation to water conservation at www.water.ie/bewatersmart. The content includes suggested lifestyle changes to save water and information on how to check for water leaks in the home. Information is also available on water saving devices outside of the home, including rainwater butts and rainwater reuse for the farming sector.
Irish Water’s website also has a facility where members of the public can report leaks in public areas. Based on the information provided, Irish Water will follow up to confirm a leak on the public mains and complete a repair.
Irish Water also supports a number of environmental education campaigns which raise awareness, promote understanding and encourage people to take action on water conservation issues. This includes the Green Schools Programme, which has delivered savings of 360 million litres of water in schools in one year alone. Irish Water has also engaged with primary and secondary schools as part of Engineers Ireland’s Engineers Week, to increase knowledge and awareness of water conservation and its benefits to the environment.
In addition, Irish Water has undertaken a research study to provide an in-depth understanding of household water usage. The findings, which show that, in general, people agree with the need to value and conserve water, will help guide the roll out of product and behavioural interventions to improve water conservation in Ireland.
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