New measures to improve rural water services will ensure that members of group water schemes get comparable benefits to what Irish Water does for the public supply, said Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Eoghan Murphy, writes Stephen Cadogan.
He was announcing an over 60% increase in maximum subsidy per group water scheme household, and said a review of wider investment needs of rural water services will commence in early 2018.
Subsidies are intended to cover the operating cost of providing domestic water services to households supplied by the group water schemes which serve about 9% of the population.
The maximum subsidy per house in private group water schemes (which have their own water treatment plant) is to increase from €140 to €231.
An increased maximum subsidy of €281 per household is available for small schemes of less than 100 houses willing to progress towards rationalisation or amalgamation with other schemes. This incentive is limited to three years.
The maximum subsidy per house for public group water schemes (water from Irish Water) is to increase from €70 to €115.
Costs that can be recouped by group water schemes are to increase, typically from 60% covered by the subsidy to 85%.
The Minister further indicated that he is currently finalising proposals to increase the level of grant support for users of private wells, and he will announce details in the coming weeks.
Minister Murphy said: “Secure, high quality water services in rural Ireland are vital to sustaining communities, businesses and water-intensive industries like the agri-food sector.
He said infrastructural improvements are also essential, which is why the Government funds such improvements through the Multi- Annual Rural Water Programme.
The Minister concluded: “Serious challenges remain in relation to rural water services, including in the areas of water quality [in small private supplies, private wells and group water schemes], future management of group water schemes and sustainable management of septic tanks.
“In this context, my Department will initiate a short, focused review of the wider investment needs relating to rural water services, including the overall approach to funding group water schemes, early next year.