Q&A: Households who use too much water are facing fines - Here's everything you need to know

Q&A: Households who use too much water are facing fines - Here's everything you need to know
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It was announced today that households which use too much water could be charged up to €500 a year.

Irish Water has been given the go ahead to start charging customers who are wasting water.

The utility is to write to households which are using over the set allowance.

“It’s about water conservation,” Irish Water said.

What is my allowance for water?

The water allowance is 213,000 litres per year based on an average household of four people. This works out at about 146 litres per person per day. Any household that uses more than this will be charged for the excess use.

The average person uses around 133 litres per day. Just to give you an idea of what this means, a shower uses 10 litres per minute on average and in a home with an older toilet, an average flush uses 13.6 litres. In a home with an ultra-low flow toilet, the average flush volume is six litres. An average dishwasher cycle uses 15 litres of water while a washing machine around 55 litres per load.

And what about bigger households? Or people with medical needs?

Households with more than four occupants can apply to Irish Water for a higher household allowance. This allowance will be 25,000 litres per additional occupant.

Customers with medical needs may apply to Irish Water for an exemption from the charge.

How will the billing work?

Prior to incurring any charges for exceeding the allowance, households will receive notification from Irish Water that they may be subject to the charge to allow them to reduce consumption.

This 'Call to Action' letter will be the first step in implementing any potential excess use charges.

If a customer continues to use more than the allowance, Irish Water will then issue an official note of apparent excess use. Domestic customers will then only be liable for charges if they continue to exceed the threshold amount in the 12-month period after receiving this notice.

As a result, excess use in 2019 will not be billed until Q1 of 2021 at the earliest.

And if I don't pay?

If people are having financial difficulties, they will be offered payment plans and helped to engage with money advisors, such as MABS. Irish Water cannot reduce or discontinue the supply of water to a person for the non-payment of the excess charge either temporarily or permanently.

How much will it cost?

The excess use charge is €1.85 per 1,000 litres per service. However, there is a combined cap on the charge of €500 for water and wastewater, i.e. €250 per service.

Are they going to increase this charge in the future?

The rate of €1.85 per 1,000 litres is in place until 2024. The CRU notes that it may be "appropriate to transition from this rate" in the future but public consultation would take place before any changes.

Is it just a money racket?

Irish Water and the CRU claim that the excess use charges are not about raising revenue but encouraging conservation. Irish Water estimates that the money raised through the charge will account for 1% of its total revenue.

It notes that as leaks are identified and repaired, the number of customers paying excess use charge will reduce and, therefore, revenue will reduce too.

What if I don't have a meter? How will they measure my use?

Irish Water says that 55% of domestic premises are metered. Through the analysis of water balances, leak alarms and other means, Irish Water says they can identify areas where there appears to be excess use.

If an area is identified, a leakage and pressure investigation crew will be dispatched to measure supply at different points. This investigation crew can then determine the households that may have excess use.

And if I still don't have a meter?

Irish Water will offer you one. If your property can't be metered, a flow monitoring device will be connected to the service pipe to monitor usage and determine if the household has excess use.

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