Water meters installed in homes across the country have a limited lifespan and may all have to be dug up and replaced in the next 15 years.
The Irish Examiner can reveal the meters will only function for a limited number of years — despite costing €500m to install.
Irish Water has confirmed the design lifespan of its domestic water meter is in the order of 15 years.
This means many of the 1.2 million water meters being installed in homes may only be used for 10 years or less as metering and charges for usage will only come into play in 2019.
The revelation that companies have been paid to install meters with such a limited lifespan will further anger campaigners opposing the Coalition’s water charges regime.
Irish Water said in a statement: “The manufacturer’s design life of a domestic water meter is in the order of 15 years. This depends on its usage being within normal domestic use operational limits and factors such as the quality of water passing through the meters.”
The information was provided to Fianna Fáil TD Michael McGrath.
The Cork South Central TD said: “Households only have certainty on [fixed] water charges until the end of 2018. Beyond that and given that the meters will almost certainly have to be replaced in the following decade, it seems certain that dramatic hikes in water charges are coming down the track. The Government knows this and are having to put a sticking plaster over the issue in the hope it will get them beyond the general election.”
Irish Water says its metering programme will cost €540m. Some were installed in the last two years which means they may need to be dug up and replaced in 2029. This means they may only be used for 10 years, once charges for usage begin.
Mr McGrath added: “There will be little if no use of meters until 2019, when people begin to get charged on their actual consumption. About 10 years after, Irish Water will have to reconvene the process right around the country.”
Irish Water said it operated a rigorous testing regime at point-of-meter manufacture and ‘in service’ so it can monitor performance over the life of meters. It also said the experience from Ireland and Britain was that meters installed in the 1990s were “still performing accurately” and that technology and manufacturing of devices had since improved.
The first phase of the domestic metering programme began in August 2013 and will be completed by mid-2016. About 33,000 meters are installed every month. To date, over 500,000 meters have been installed.
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