HOUSEHOLDERS should have an option to install their own water meters, which according to Deputy Niall Collins could be done for less than half the â€œexorbitantâ€ â‚¬800 it looks set to cost over 20 years under plans announced by the Government last week.
Provision and installation of the meters, Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan said, would be paid for through a loan from the National Pension Reserve Fund to the newly-established state utility company, Irish Water.
Around one million homes would be fitted with water meters in advance of each starting to pay water charges from 2014. The cost of the installation would be paid back by householders through an annual standing charge of â‚¬40 for 20 years.
But Deputy Collins said such costs represented a poor deal for consumers.
Companies which supply and fit water meters have come out in the media quoting prices of as little as â‚¬300 to do the job and â€œcould not understandâ€ the costs coming from government sources, said the Limerick Fianna Fail TD.
â€œI am asking Minister Hogan to clarify urgently if households will be given the choice to have standard, approved meters fitted themselves instead of paying a fee of â‚¬40 a year amounting to an overall bill of â‚¬800. Thousands of newly built homes already have meters fitted as standard â€“ will they be exempt from the â‚¬40 annual fee?â€
He added that a government that had failed in its communication strategy on the household charge was presiding over a second fiasco in that householders still had no idea how much they would expect to pay for water or how many litres could be included in a free usage allowance.
â€œMinister Hogan has given no indication whatsoever of how these charges will be implemented in a fair way, taking into consideration peopleâ€™s ability to pay. Families across the country who are already to the pin of their collar are now extremely worried about how they will cope with water bills on top of everything else. The notion of asking them to pay an exorbitant â‚¬800 for water meters so that they can be charged for their water use is ridiculous. Minister Hoganâ€™s failure to communicate with the public and listen to their very valid concerns has failed him in the past. He must be fair, honest and upfront with households on this occasion,â€ said Deputy Collins.
Minister for Finance Michael Noonan said it would be â€œprematureâ€ of him to speculate on what the ultimate costs for water to the consumer would be.
â€œI see meters as the friend of the householder and the friend of business because they will prevent people having to pay for water that is wasted,â€ the minister added.
It currently costs the Exchequer â‚¬1.2 billion per annum to supply domestic water - which amounts to over â‚¬800 per household but the Government has said it will continue to meet much of these costs.