This section sets out the national legislation and EU policy relevant to the water sector in Ireland.

National Water Legislation

The CRU’s role and powers in regulating Irish Water are set out in the following legislation:

Water Services Act 2013

This Act establishes Irish Water and allowed the CRU to begin to prepare for its role as Irish Water’s economic regulator at that time. It states that a key function of the CRU is to protect the interests of customers of Irish Water.

The Act provides the CRU with a function to advise the Minister in relation to the development of policy regarding the regulation of the provision of water services and to consult with entities it considers appropriate in relation to regulating Irish Water.

Water Services Act (No. 2) 2013

This Act sets out more specific duties and functions of the CRU, including those regarding the Water Charges Plan, Irish Water’s Codes of Practice, Irish Water’ Strategic Plan, and the time period for which Irish Water’s Investment Plans apples. It requires the CRU to perform its functions in a manner that best serves the interests of the customers of Irish Water.

Water Services Act 2014

This Act directs the CRU to establish the Public Water Forum to represent the interests of the customers of Irish Water. It also provides the CRU with the power to provide dispute resolution service to Irish Water’s customers for unresolved complaints. It gives Irish Water the power to begin charging customers from 1 January 2015.

Water Services (Amendment) Act 2016 

The 2016 legislation suspended water charges from 1 July 2016 to 31 March 2017. Two subsequent Statutory Instruments in 2017 (SI 118 and SI 330) extended the suspension of water charges until the 31st December 2017.

Water Services Act 2017

This Act required the CRU to carry out a review to assess the average demand for water services to dwellings over a 12 month period, and to recommend this demand rate to the Minister along with a per person allowance for water services. The Minister then set a threshold amount by multiplying the established average demand rate by 1.7 (125,000 x 1.7 = 213,000 litres) and set the allowance rate using the CRU’s incremental per person allowance (25,000 litres). Usage by a dwellings in excess of the threshold amount will incur a charge however allowances and exemptions will exist for those with larger households and medical conditions respectively.

The legislation establishes that the CRU will set the charges for usage above the threshold amount (details on the charges themselves and charging arrangements will be decided by the CRU during 2018) and sets out additional steps to be completed in advance of each CRU revenue control process. This includes the development of a Water Services Policy Statement (by the Minister) and a Strategic Funding Plan (by Irish Water). The CRU will then carry out a normal review process following submission from Irish Water. The CRU’s revenue control decision also needs to be in place in sufficient time in order to feed into the Government’s budgetary process.

The Act strengthens the CRU’s role in complaint handing, dissolves the Public Water Forum and the CRU’s role as Secretariat and establishes a Water Forum which can provide advice and observations to the CRU. The Act also establishes a Water Advisory Body, of which the CRU is required to be a member.

EU Policy

Unlike in the energy sector, there is no governing EU legislation that provides for independent economic regulation of the water sector. EU Directives, such as the Water Framework Directive, the Drinking Water Regulations, the Bathing Water Directive, and the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive set out obligations for Ireland to meet environmental and quality standards in its water services.

The EU Water Framework Directive (WFD) requires Member States to protect and improve water quality in all waters so that we achieve good ecological status by 2015 or, at the latest, by 2027. It also requires Member States to maintain water pricing policies that incentivise efficient use of water, and recover costs for water services in line with the polluter pays principle.

You can find more information about the WFD and Ireland’s plans to protect its water quality through the DHCPLG, the EPA, beaches.ie, and at www.catchments.ie.