New publicly sourced GWS rates: Bulk metered GWSs can expect bill changes

Be prepared and be ready to review your own charging rates if necessary; that’s the advice to publicly group water schemes (pubGWSs), as they prepare for the introduction of new enduring charging arrangements with Irish Water.

The new rates came into effect on the 1st October, following June’s publication of a final decision paper by the Commission of Regulation of Utilities (CRU), and will bring pubGWSs fully under Irish Water’s Non-Domestic Tariff Framework by October 2024. It also establishes a harmonised system for the sector, with charges previously varying between local authorities.

Publicly sourced GWSs that are charged based upon a single bulk meter at their point of connection to Irish Water will be most impacted by the new tariff rates, as opposed to GWSs in which Irish Water directly charge individual GWS members for non-domestic use. As such, the CRU has classed these GWSs as a particular type of connection: ‘a bulk meter public group water scheme connection’.

Other CRU decisions were:

  • Irish Water will grant domestic allowances to bulk meter publicly sourced GWSs according to the number of dwellings connected to the scheme.
  • Irish Water to apply a domestic allowance of 213m3 per dwelling per annum to publicly sourced GWSs.
  • The enduring charging arrangements for publicly sourced GWSs will be implemented on 1 October 2022.
  • Irish Water to apply comparable transition arrangements (albeit it will be a two-year transition) to those under the Non-Domestic Tariff Framework to publicly sourced GWSs (until 1 October 2024).
  • The tariff application rules that apply when assigning non-domestic connections and mixed-use connections to a tariff class under the Non-Domestic Tariff Framework shall also apply to publicly sourced GWS connections.
  • Irish Water’s leak allowance policy shall also apply to publicly sourced GWS connections.

Phased basis

The new tariff rates will be applied immediately for pubGWSs that will see either a decrease or an increase of less than €250 to its annual bill from Irish Water. For those that face an increase of greater than €250, there will be two equal increases applied over two years. If the increase is €750 or more, a 10% cap will be applied to the annual bill increase in each of the two years.

Baring these arrangements in mind, the CRU will be consulting on further transitional arrangements for pubGWSs that will not have reached the new tariff rates by the end of the two year period.

Importantly, the Irish Water leak allowance policy will apply to pubGWS connections, helping to protect against stark bill increases caused by undetected leaks. NFGWS senior development co-ordinator, Joe Gallagher is urging all pubGWSs to start preparing for the new rates:

‘Each publicly sourced GWS should now assess its overall annual water demand to identify which tariff band it will fall into. The annual domestic allowance can easily be calculated but it is important that each pubGWS is aware of its levels of Unaccounted-for Water (UFW).

‘By subtracting the total domestic allowance from the overall total water demand, it will indicate what the GWS can expect to be charged — baring in mind that the annual standing charge and leak allowance will also need to be considered.’

Review charging rates

Some GWSs may need to consider reviewing their own charging rate for members in light of expected Irish Water bill increases. Joe explained:

‘The NFGWS financial tool is available to any scheme that might need assistance with this process. If GWSs fail to adequately budget for these changes, they run the risk on not effectively covering their operational costs.’

In advance of the new cycle of the Multi-annual Rural Water Programme (MARWP), Joe also highlighted how a reduction in water loss on the network could provide value for money in long-term:

‘If the level of Unaccounted-for Water (UFW) on the distribution network is high, GWSs should consider com-pleting a water audit to identify problematic areas that may be in need of an upgrade. If funding is required to upgrade such infrastructure, GWSs need to prepare evidence-based applications for the next cycle of the MARWP.’

Following the publication of the CRU decision paper, the NFGWS contacted all affiliated publicly sourced group water schemes and held an online workshop to explain the changes. Any pubGWSs with further queries are urged to contact their local NFGWS development officer.

Also, Irish Water has appointed a dedicated point of contact for queries in relation to pubGWSs. Eamonn Smith can be contacted at esmith@water.ie and please copy your local NFGWS Development officer on any correspondence.