Environment Minister Phil Hogan confirmed yesterday the Government had reached an agreement with the troika to defer the introduction of the controversial charges from the original target of early 2014 until the last quarter of next year.
However, consumers will have to wait until later this year to discover the scale of charges being imposed and how much free monthly water allowance they will be allocated.
Mr Hogan said there would also be specific supports for householders with medical conditions that require high levels of water use as well as for those with affordability issues.
He stressed that no decision had been take yet about the size of the allowance. The level of water charges is to be determined by the Commission for Energy Regulation which will be the subject of a public consultation in early 2014.
Mr Hogan said a range of conservation measures would be put in place to support householders who suffered leaks in water pipes located between a water meter and their property.
He is considering a “first fix free” or equivalent support scheme to assist such consumers which represents a reversal of statements made by Irish Water representatives last year that householders would be liable for the cost of such repairs.
Mr Hogan said it was unacceptable that 40% of the existing water network suffered leaks. Irish Water has admitted it could take 15 years or more to achieve its target of lowering the national leakage rate to 20% due to the antiquated nature of the country’s 25,000km network of water mains.
He also announced the location of eight regional offices for Irish Water — the new state body established as a subsidiary of Bord Gáis to oversee the introduction of the new system for water metering and charges.
The offices will be located in Dublin, Mullingar, Castlebar, Cavan, Donegal, Kilkenny, Limerick, and Mallow, in addition to Irish Water’s headquarters in Dublin and a service centre in Cork. Each office will have 18-32 employees.
Some jobs will be created, although the vast majority of positions will result from staff being transferred from their existing roles with local authorities, the Department of the Environment and Bord Gáis.
Details of vacancies will be published in due course on Irish Water’s website, to be launched tomorrow.
Mr Hogan said regional offices would help increase efficiencies and create greater economies of scale.
Irish Water has predicted water consumption levels will fall by around 10% following the introduction of charges The start of a €450m programme to install water meters to over one million residences is due to get under way later this year, but is unlikely to be completed before 2016.