In December 1996, the then Environment Minister, Brendan Howlin, TD, announced the abolition of service charges in respect of domestic water supplies on public water schemes operated by local authorities around the country. The private group scheme sector, serving in the region of 150,000 homes and rural businesses was excluded from the announcement.
Throughout January 1997, group water schemes began a series of meetings and consultations to determine how the sector should respond to their exclusion from the measure announced by Minister Howlin. A meeting in Barnaderg, County Galway, on 30 January 1997 was followed three days later by a very large and representative gathering in Knock, County Mayo. At this meeting, on Sunday, 2 February 1997, the National Federation of Group Water Schemes was established and a National Executive put in place.
The NFGWS was quickly recognised as the representative organisation for private and part-private group water schemes in Ireland. The Federation was incorporated as a co-operative society in 1998.
On 2nd February 2018 National Federation of Group Water Schemes celebrated 21 years. An ecumenical service was held in Knock, County Mayo., immediately before the Annual Delegate Conference on 8th March 2018, to mark this anniversary celebration. Local ministers of religion from several denominations presided over the poignant and reflective ceremony that acknowledged, in particular, the contribution of deceased GWS activists