Last week, Cabinet approved the introduction of Water Environment (Abstractions) Bill for early next year. This bill will require users of more than 25,000 litres of water per day to register with the EPA for this first time.
The bill is designed to establish how much water is being used in the country by organisations and individuals who are extracting water from their own private supplies.
Ireland has the second highest abstraction rate per person for public water supply in the EU at 135,000 litres per year, however this is due to the fact that 45% of treated water is lost through leaks.
The Department of Housing has identified up to 3,000 individuals and organisations using more than 25,000 litres of water per day (over 100 times the average household water use), including over 600 large dairy farmers, 300 golf courses, 200 quarries and concrete producers and 100 large companies There are also up to 10 bottled water companies using groundwater to make their products.
These large users will not face charges for sourcing their water, but there is the real prospect that they will face restrictions on how much water they can use if it is posing a risk to rivers, lakes and groundwater supplies.
The EU’s Water Framework Directive requires Ireland to have a system to register and control the abstraction of water. which Ireland currently doesn’t have. As a result, the European Commission has commenced infringement proceedings against Ireland for its failure to introduce a system.
Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy is proposing a three-tiered registration and licensing system for the abstraction of water, with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) responsible for establishing and maintaining a database of registrations and for licensing. Although the bill is not yet passed into law, the new register is intended to be set up this year.