To ask the Minister for Housing; Planning and Local Government the measures he has taken to review the research budget of the EPA on water management and conservation in line with the recommendations of the Special Oireachtas Committee on Future Funding of Domestic Water Services; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), as environmental regulator, is responsible for setting quality standards and enforcing compliance with EU directives and National Regulations for drinking water supplies and wastewater discharges to water bodies. Irish Water is the lead authority in relation to the management and conservation of public water supplies.
My Department engages on an ongoing basis with the EPA in relation to its role in respect of water and wastewater services, including with regard to the resource implications arising from its responsibilities. Under its Water Quality Programme, my Department funds the EPA to conduct a range of activities to facilitate and support the implementation of the EU Water Framework Directive, including the water quality monitoring of rivers, lakes, estuaries and groundwater.
In relation to policy on water conservation, the Water Services Policy Statement 2018-2025, which I published in May 2018, sets out a series of high-level policy objectives across the three thematic areas of Quality, Conservation, and Future Proofing, which must be pursued when planning capital investment and framing current spending plans. The EPA was involved as a key stakeholder in the process leading to preparation of the Policy Statement, which is available on my Department's website at the following link:
The Policy Statement supports the promotion of water conservation and water resource management as an important element of water services policy that is to be reflected in strategic investment planning by Irish Water. For the period of the Policy Statement, this will involve 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.
This Policy Statement was informed by the 2017 Report of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on the Future Funding of Domestic Water Services which was approved by both Houses of the Oireachtas and which includes a number of recommendations in relation to the continued use of metering to support water conservation, to reduce leakages and to ensure compliance with the European Union Water Framework Directive, as opposed to for revenue raising purposes. The Water Services Policy Statement is consistent with this position.
The Water Services Policy Statement is expected to influence all stakeholders, including An Fóram Uisce which has a statutory role in relation to water conservation and the EPA in respect of developing research proposals. Having regard to its statutory role, the Policy Statement provides that An Fóram Uisce will also consider the recommendations in respect of water conservation made by the Joint Oireachtas Committee with a view to identifying practical steps for their implementation
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