Minister Murphy announces increased supports for rural water services
The Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Eoghan Murphy, T.D., has today 15 December, 2017 announced a range of measures aimed at improving rural water services. The changes will come into effect from January 1st 2018. The Minister said that the package of measures will bring greater equity and fairness for rural water users and will ensure that domestic members of group water schemes get comparable benefits to those being served by the public supply through Irish Water. In addition to the increased subsidies, the Minister announced a review of wider investment needs of rural water services, which is to commence in early 2018.
He announced the measures following endorsement recently of the revised subsidy levels for group water schemes by the National Federation of Group Water Schemes (NFGWS) at a special delegates’ conference. Subsidies are intended to cover the operating cost of providing domestic water services to households supplied by group water schemes.
The changes are:
- For the annual subsidy towards the operation and maintenance costs of group water schemes providing a supply of water for domestic purposes (knows as ‘Subsidy A’):
- The maximum subsidy per house in private group water schemes is to increase from €140 per household to €231. Private group water schemes are schemes that supply water from their own water treatment plant. An increased maximum subsidy of €281 per household is available for small schemes of less than 100 houses that are willing, in the interests of providing in the long run a more sustainable water supply to their members, to progress towards rationalisation or amalgamation with other schemes.
- The maximum subsidy per house for public group water schemes is to increase from €70 per household to €115. These are schemes that supply water to their members that is provided by Irish Water.
- The portion of costs than can be recouped by group water schemes is to increase. Currently, typically up 60% of costs can be covered by the subsidy payments. This is to increase to 85%. There will also be changes and simplifications to how these costs are assessed.
- For the additional subsidy that is paid towards the costs of group water schemes that have long-term Operation and Maintenance Contracts (e.g. as part of a Design Build Operate project) for the delivery of water (known as ‘Subsidy B)’:
- There is an increase in the level of recoupable volumetric costs incurred by group water schemes operating under these contracts from 60% to 85%. This will allow for a greater portion of costs to be included within the subsidy payment.
The Minister further indicated that he is currently finalising proposals to increase the level of grant support for users of private wells, with details to be announced in the coming weeks.
Announcing the measures, Minister Murphy said: “Secure, high quality water services in rural Ireland are vital to sustaining communities, businesses and water-intensive industries like the agri-food sector. In its report published last April, the Joint Oireachtas Committee on the Future Funding of Domestic Water Services correctly identified the importance of equity of treatment and equivalent financial support between those on public water supplies and those with private water services. In announcing these measures, I am implementing key elements of the joint Oireachtas committee’s recommendations.”
Commenting on the NFGWS’ endorsement of the revised subsidy levels, the Minister said: “I welcome the Federation’s endorsement this evening. The Federation is the representative body of the group water sector and its members’ support for these subsidy increases is vital to ensuring households continue to enjoy equal treatment with those on public water supplies in the area of Exchequer funding of the cost of domestic water services. I would like to thank the Federation for their constructive approach during talks with my department on future subsidy levels.”
Minister Murphy added: “Revisions to group water scheme subsidies will help improve water quality and scheme management. It will also help secure the future of smaller group water schemes. But infrastructural improvements are also essential, which is why the Government funds such improvements through the Multi-Annual Rural Water Programme. Next year, the Government has allocated €20 million for the programme, an increase of 12.4% on the 2017 allocation. Rural water supplies’ quality, as evidenced by the recent EPA report, continues to be inferior to that of public water supplies, which is why we are committed to sustained capital funding for group water schemes.”
The Minister concluded: “Serious challenges remain in relation to rural water services, including in the areas of water quality (in small private supplies, private wells and group water schemes), future management of group water schemes and sustainable management of septic tanks. In this context, my Department will initiate a short, focused review of the wider investment needs relating to rural water services, including the overall approach to funding group water schemes, early next year. Any new measures will support the programmes of measures in the finalised River Basin Management Plan 2018-2021, which I plan on publishing early next year.”
Notes for Editors
Subsidies for group water schemes
Subsidies are intended to cover the operating cost of providing domestic water services to households supplied by group water schemes. According to Census 2016, approximately 9% of the population is served by group water schemes.
1. For Subsidy A (recoupable costs relating to water supplies to domestic households in group water schemes):
- an increase of the recoupable costs threshold from 60% to 85% of costs (there will also be changes and simplifications to how recoupable costs are assessed)
- an increase in the maximum subsidy ceiling per house in private group water schemes from €140 per household to €231
- an increase in the maximum subsidy ceiling per house in public group water schemes from €70 per household to €115
- A new incentive for small private group water schemes (of less than 100 houses) to rationalise/amalgamate with other schemes through an additional €50 subsidy ceiling per domestic connection. This would bring the total subsidy ceiling per house for small private group water schemes to €281 per house. The incentive would be limited to three years.
2. For Subsidy B (costs relating to Operation & Maintenance (eg as part of a Design Build Operate contract), an increase in the level of recoupable volumetric costs incurred by DBO group water schemes from 60% to 85%