Clash over level of water discounts

A government department and two state bodies promoting investment have clashed with the energy regulator and Irish Water over the level of discounts to be offered to large firms for water which is unfit for human consumption.

The Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, in a joint submission with IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland, has criticised the Commission for Energy Regulation and Irish Water over the low discount rates for large businesses which are supplied with contaminated water.

The three bodies complain there is no precedent in any other country for the 5% discount being proposed by Irish Water.

They questioned if the CER’s intention to sanction the standard 5% discount was “consistent with the regulatory principles of fairness and transparency”.

The process of administering the discounts lacked certainty and clarity, according to the three bodies.

The CER recently announced that it has approved Irish Water’s proposals that large water users (LWU) involved in food and drink manufacturing will automatically receive a 40% discount on the basis that their products were ultimately intended for human consumption. All other LWUs — users who consume at least 50,000m cubed per annum — will receive a default discount of just 5%.

However, labour intensive LWUs who believe the 5% discount level underestimates the appropriate discount based on the amount of water it used for human consumption can request to have their case treated according to a special formula.

The discounts will apply retrospectively from October 1, 2014 for any users issued with boil water notices or drinking water restriction notices. The CER said it decided the appropriate discount should reflect the water consumed by humans on a business premises.

However, the department and other state bodies highlighted the CER’s admission that there is very limited information available on how much of the water used by non-domestic users is for human consumption.

They also pointed out no provision was made for the manufacturers of other products intended for human consumption such as in the pharmaceutical and medical technology sectors.

They recommended the 40% discount level should apply to all LWUs until more data was available on the level of water usage.


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