New rural water services scheme comes into effect from January 1 2018

  • Over 60% increase in maximum subsidy per group water scheme household
  • Review of wider investment needs of rural water services to commence in early 2018

A herd of cattle

The Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Eoghan Murphy, has announced a range of measures aimed at improving rural water services. 

The changes will come into effect from January 1 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.

“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.”

“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,” he said.