Dublin, Ireland --- (METERING.COM) --- January 18, 2012 - Ireland’s government has decided to embark on the rollout of a universal water metering program, facilitating the move to a use-based charging system for domestic water users.

The decision, contained in a position paper setting out proposed reforms for Ireland’s water sector, is expected to see approximately 1.05 million households on public water supplies – out of the total 1.35 million households – receive water meters “as quickly as possible.” (The remaining households would be either too expensive or technically difficult to meter individually initially.)

According to the position paper water services in Ireland cost over €1.2 billion to run in 2010, of which operational costs were €715 million and capital costs over €500 million. However, Ireland is the only country in the OECD where households do not pay directly for the water they use, and apart from revenue of just over €200 million from non-domestic charges, the balance of the costs around €1 billion is largely state funded.

Further, Ireland has a freshwater abstraction of 141 m³ per capita, compared with most European Union member states in which the rates are between 50 m³ and 100 m³ per capita.

The installation of water meters is expected to start by the end of 2012. It is proposed that water charges will start above a free allowance, the level of which has yet to be set.

“The government believes the installation of water meters represents a long term investment in how we, as a society, manage and fund our water resources,” states the position paper.

The other main proposed reform is the establishment of a regulated public water utility, Irish Water, that will take over the investment and maintenance programs of the 34 county and city councils. Irish Water would have responsibility for the water metering rollout.

The proposals are now open to consultation, with a February 24 deadline.