Irish Water

Irish Water was established under the Water Services Act 2013 as a subsidiary of BGE. The property staff and most functions of local authorities in relation to water wastewater and sewerage were transferred to Irish Water. Water services were privatised in England in the 1990s. The position is different in Northern Ireland.

The Water Services Act 2007 and  2013 modernised law in water services and established Irish Water. There is a new licensing system and framework for group water schemes. Irish Water is obliged to make periodic strategic plans. There are duties of care on occupiers and owners regarding conservation public health and the protection of the environment and water service infrastructure.

Irish Water is obliged to prepare a water services strategic plan and submit it  to the Minister for approval. It is to achieve certain objectives.

.The ownership of water infrastructure and responsibility for most water services was transferred to Irish Water  over a period in the last decade. It is now the  responsible authority for water for domestic and business use and for wastewater disposal. This was done in the context of Ireland’s obligations under European Union environmental rules in relation to water management.  Water conservation and management powers are an important aspect of the legislation.

The debate and subsequent change of policy in relation to Irish Water  charging water charges is well known. Irish Water  has supervisory roles in relation to private water supplies. It can issue directions in relation to action programmes compliance with water standards.

Regulation of Irish Water

The Commission for Regulation of Utilities has certain regulatory functions in relation to Irish Water. In particular it was obliged to determine the level of tariffs to charge for services. It is responsible for ensuring that appropriate consumer protection measures are put in place

There is no specific right to require Irish Water  or other authorities to provide water and sanitation. It is conceivable that individuals may be able to take action against Irish Water  and other authorities to enforce their duties to provide clean water and sanitation under some the now extensive range of environmental legislation.

However, the water services legislation provide limits on rights to take legal action against government bodies and Irish Water  by reason of failure to exercise powers or restriction on the provision of water services in a manner that is reasonable for the performance of their functions.

The Department and EPA have powers to monitor water and wastewater take action against authorities including Irish Water  for failures of compliance

Water Schemes

Part 6 of the Water Services Act deals with rural water services in general. A water services authority may make or review a rural water services strategic plans provide for water services in rural areas within its functional area.

The  water services authority is responsible for the supervision of water services which are provided by a person other than the authority within its functional area in order to ensure the protection of human health and the environment. The provision of water for human consumption or providing general water services requires a water service licence.

The Minister may make regulations specifying a threshold below which a water service licence is not required and criteria for determining a level of service, requirements in relation to notification registration monitoring inspection drinking water quality and waste quality standards water conservation and provision of information including provision of information and guidance necessary for the purpose of protection of human health and the environment requirements in relation to the treatment reuse disposal or by-products arising from the treatment of water and wastewater

There is provision for the water services authority to determine whether a particular activity constitutes a licensable activity. There is provision for appeal to the District Court against the determination.


A water services authority licence is granted subject to an application procedure. The authority must decide having regard to submissions made, the relevant water services strategic plan, the resources of the applicant in terms of financial operation and management capacity to ensure effective and efficient provision of water services in accordance with standards, the view of other water services authorities in the functional area,  the availability of alternative water services for the area,  requests by the provider of water services to have the scheme taken charge by water services authority, any related licence for discharge of trade effluent and prescribed water quality standards for wastewater.

A licence may be granted subject to conditions. Conditions may include measures to

  • counter risk to human health or the environment
  • water supply standards for wastewater treatment standards
  • standards of service
  • monitoring and supervision
  • sampling and analysis

There may be individual conditions regarding the scale of the activity specification of household area and activities that are the subject of the licence.

The licence may be reviewed and revoked. If the authority is of the opinion that

  • the activity is causing or likely to cause risk to human health or the environment,
  • there has been a material change in the nature of skill of activity
  • there has been a change in the financial operation and management capacity of licence holder
  • new information is available
  • provision of water services has been unsatisfactory or unreasonably refused by the holder of a licence.

There are  procedures around revocation of a licence.

Irish Water / Local Authority

The Water Supplies Act  confers powers on water authorities (now Irish Water) to abstract water for the purpose of providing water supplies. In so doing, all reasonable steps must be taken to identify persons to whom damage may be caused by taking the water. Notice of the proposal must be served on persons concerned. Persons who may suffer damage and loss must be given the opportunity to object.

If objections are made and not withdrawn the authority must apply for an order enabling the proposal to come into effect. Compensation is payable to persons who suffer damage by the abstraction. They must make a claim within a certain time. Larger scale water abstractions may be subject to environmental impact assessment.

 Water Abstraction Registration

 The EPA have launched a register of water abstractions in accordance with the European Union (Water Policy) (Abstractions Registration) Regulations 2018 (S.I. No. 261 of 2018). People who abstract 25 cubic meters (25,000 litres) of water or more per day are required to register their water abstraction.  Development of a register of water abstractions is a requirement of the Water Framework Directive (2000/60/EC) and has been signalled in the River Basin Management Plan 2018-2021.

Responsible management of water resources involves ensuring that river flows, lake and groundwater levels can sustain aquatic environments, while also allowing use of water for drinking water supply and other agricultural, commercial, industrial and recreational purposes. To assess if our water resources are being managed sustainably, it is important to know what volume of water is being abstracted and from which rivers, lakes and groundwater.

This water abstraction register aims to capture this information and the data will be used in conjunction with information on discharges, flow and water level data, and water status to identify if there are any rivers, lakes or groundwater bodies that have unsustainable abstractions that require active management.

Requirement to Register

 The requirement to register relates only to abstractions with a daily maximum volume of 25 cubic meters (25,000 litres) or more. Existing abstractions greater than this volume must be registered through the  EPA EDEN portal within four months of the commencement of the regulations, i.e. by 16th November 2018. Thereafter, for new abstractions, there is a requirement to register within one month of the commencement of the abstraction.

 There is no requirement to register abstractions with a daily maximum volume of less than 25 cubic meters (25,000 litres). It will not be possible to complete a registration if the daily maximum volume is less than 25 cubic meters (25,000 litres). Small private supplies, e.g. using domestic wells (which typically abstract between 0.5 – 1.0 cubic meter of water per day) do not require registration.


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Draft Articles; The articles on this website are in draft form and are subject to further review for typographical errors and, in some cases, updating and correction. It is intended to include references to the sources of materials and acknowledgements in the final version. The content of articles with [EU] in the title and some of the articles in the section on Agriculture are a reproduction of or are based on European or Irish public sector information.

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