The Commission for Energy Regulation performs functions in a manner that best serves the interest of the customers of Irish Water. It is required to have regard to the need for Irish Water to be able to finance its activities, to ensure continuity, safety and sustainability of water service and to ensure costs are recovered from users in accordance with the EU Water Framework Directive.
The CER is to advise the Minister in relation to the development and delivery of water services. The Commission is to provide the strategy statements and submit revised strategy statements to the Minister every three years.
The Minister for the Environment may issue a policy direction to the Commission. Before so doing, a draft is to be issued to the Commission and the joint Oireachtas Committee. It is also to be published in Iris Oifigiúil.
The Commission may request information from Irish Water that it requires for the performance functions. The Commission may enter into agreements with the Environmental Protection Agency for administrative cooperation.
The CER publishes a scheme of charges applicable, 1 October 2014 to 31 December 2016. The Irish Water charges plan refers to water and wastewater charges for domestic and non-domestic customers.
The 2014 Act provided for the establishment of a Public Water Forum by the Commission for Energy Regulation to represent the interests of customers of Irish Water. It is to have between 12 and 60 members representative of the interests of customers of Irish Water. Its function is to review and comment on strategies and plans of Irish Water including investment plans and water charge plans. The Minister may make regulations in relation to the composition of the forum.
The Commission for Energy Regulation is to establish a dispute resolution procedure for resolution of complaints by customers of Irish Water. It is similar to that operated in the energy sector. The Commission prepares an annual report on the number and type of complaints and on service levels generally, provided by Irish Water.
The CRU is to have regard to a strategic funding plan prepared by Irish Water when considering a water charges plan submitted by Irish Water.
The Minister shall prepare a ‘water services policy statement’ before the expiration of the water charges plan. The statement will contain information concerning the policy objectives and priorities of the Government regarding the provision of water services in the State. The water services policy statement will be laid before each House of the Oireachtas.
Irish Water is to prepare and submit a ‘strategic funding plan’ outlining the arrangements for implementation of the objectives of the ‘water services strategic plan’ for the duration of the water charges plan being prepared by Irish Water. The ‘strategic funding plan’ is to include an estimate for the costs associated with the provision of water services to dwellings and recovery of these costs; costs associated with the provision of water services to premises other than dwellings and recovery of those costs; income of Irish Water and the operating expenditure and capital expenditure of Irish Water.
The strategic funding plan will be laid before each House of the Oireachtas and will be furnished to the CRU. The Joint Oireachtas Committee on the Future Funding of Domestic Water Services recommended that there should be funding certainty and long term stability for the water utility.
There is provision for grants to Irish Water, sanctioned by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, towards the expenditure incurred by Irish Water in the provision of water services to a “dwelling”. Before deciding whether or not to make a grant, the Minister shall have regard to the water charges plan last approved by the CRU, the strategic funding plan last approved by the Minister, the refunds plan, the need to ensure the recovery of costs of water services in line with the Water Framework Directive and the environmental objectives of the EU Water Framework Directive.
The 2017 Act strengthened the role of the CRU in relation to disputes between Irish Water and those seeking a connection to the public water/ wastewater network.
Where providing for a connection to water services provided by Irish Water or where offering terms for the carrying out of work for the purpose of connection to, or use of, water services provided by Irish Water, Irish Water shall not discriminate unfairly as between any persons or classes of persons.
) Any dispute (whether as to the making of an offer, the terms offered, the proposed charges or otherwise) where an offer is made by Irish Water, or where Irish Water refuses to make an offer, in relation to the connection to, or use of, water services provided by Irish Water between Irish Water, and) any person who is, or claims to be, a person to whom Irish Water is requested to make an offer for connection to, or use of, such water services, may, upon the application of that person, be determined by the Commission in accordance with section 8 and Irish Water shall comply with and be bound by any such determination.
Where Irish Water does not comply with a determination of the Commission under this section, the Commission may apply in a summary manner, on notice to Irish Water, to the High Court for an order requiring Irish Water to comply with the determination of the Commission made under this section within a period to be specified by the Court.
The Water Services act 2017 established a Water Forum. The members of the forum are appointed by the Minister. There are to be between 20 and 40 members. Ministerial regulations are to specify details of the composition membership and operation of the forum.
The Forum has the following functions:
to advise the Minister in relation to Government water policy having regard to, amongst other things, the following: water conservation; rural water services; the interests of the customers of Irish Water;
to make recommendations to Irish Water in relation to the performance by Irish Water of its functions, and when requested in writing in that behalf by Irish Water, on any policy document prepared by Irish Water;
to advise and provide observations to the Commission in relation to the performance by Irish Water of its functions, and when requested in writing in that behalf by the Commission, on any consultation document prepared by the Commission in respect of water services provided by Irish Water;
to advise the Water Policy Advisory Committee in relation to any river basin management on matters pertaining to the objectives of the EU Water Framework Directive, and) on such other related matters concerning the management of the inland aquatic environment and water resources;
to examine such other water-related matters, including the carrying out of research concerning those matters, as the Minister requests the Forum to examine and to advise the Minister accordingly.
The Water Services Act 2017 Water Advisory Body and set out the provisions relating to the membership, functions and operation of the Body. The Advisory Body is to advise the Minister on the measures needed to improve the transparency and accountability of Irish Water for the purpose of increasing the confidence of members of the public in Irish Water;
It is to furnish on a quarterly basis, a report to the Committee on the performance by Irish Water in the implementation of its business plan with particular regard to the following:
- infrastructure delivery and leakage reductions;
- cost reduction and efficiency improvements;
- improvements in water quality, including the elimination of boil water notices;
- procurement, remuneration and staffing policies;
- responsiveness to the needs of communities and enterprise.