Irish Water has confirmed some apartment dwellers will not save any money by conserving their water usage as the company will not meter their residences.
The anomaly means that in theory a childless couple in an apartment could face higher water bills than a family of five, regardless of their usage.
Water charges for properties with two or more adults are capped at €260 a year. However. this is the maximum amount that can be charged. Metered households are charged on the amount of water used, and allowances are provided for children.
However, during a tour of its customer contact centre in Curaheen, Cork yesterday Elizabeth Arnett, head of communications with Irish Water, conceded that not all properties will be metered and that these will pay the flat capped rate.
“If you have registered, and you have registered for your free children’s allowance for water we are finding that families with three children are beating the cap,” she said.
“If your leaks are repaired, if you are conserving water and using water efficiently and if you have kids and are availing of the allowance and registered properly, four out of 10 people are beating the cap,” she said.
Ms Arnett said properties that have yet to be metered will get money back on their flat charges if it later transpires that they use less water on average.
“If, when you get a meter, the first meter read shows that you are beating the cap then you retrospectively get a rebate, automatically onto your bill. You don’t have to do anything,” she said.
“That means no one is disadvantaged, if you’re conserving water now and you’ve yet to get your meter, you’re not disadvantaged, you’ll get that back,” Ms Arnett said.
When asked by the Irish Examiner, however, Ms Arnett confirmed that not all properties will be metered.
“We have done a study on metering apartments. It depends on the plumbing configuration of the building. If there’s a separate supply pipe, one pipe into a single apartment, then it is possible to meter and as we develop the metering programme and move onto phase two, we will look at addressing that,” she said.
“But some of the older apartment blocks could have four separate supply pipes in, and you wouldn’t put four meters on one apartment.
“So there will always be technical, plumbing reasons why some properties can’t get metered. We are going to try and get as close to universal metering as we can. You wouldn’t replumb an entire apartment block in that instance, Ms Arnett said.
“The reality is we have nearly 750,000 meters in already, we’re well ahead of programme. We’re putting meters in faster than we anticipated, despite the challenges that we have had.
“We will look then to go back and see areas and properties where the stopcock was lost, or close to a wall or where supplies have to be split and we’ll look to get more meters in to single unit properties.
“There is no utility in the world that can overcome the challenge you have just put out there, it’s not physically possible to do it. We’ll get as close to universal metering as we can,” Ms Arnett said.
Irish Water yesterday said calls to its customer centre have more than halved since it issued its second bills to householders compared to the first billing cycle.
The utility says it expects to have completed its metering installation by the middle of 2016. Billing services operations manager Andy Day said installations will not take place in areas where workers cannot get access on health an safety grounds.
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