Northern Ireland could face fines of around £300,000 a day for breach of the Water Framework Directive (WFD) if it continues to avoid charging households for water services. That was the warning from the Institution of Civil Engineers’ recent State of the Nation report as it urged the devolved government to change the funding model for state-owned Northern Ireland Water.

Article 9 of the WFD requires countries to introduce water pricing policies that “provide adequate incentives for users to use water resources efficiently” by 2010.

Domestic water charges are being introduced in the Republic of Ireland, leaving its northern neighbour the only region in Europe not to charge directly for the service.

A spokeswoman for Northern Ireland’s Department for Regional Development, which is responsible for Northern Ireland Water, confirmed a commitment not to introduce household water charges before 2015.

The minister for regional development, Danny Kennedy, is due to submit a paper on the impli­cations of that commitment to the ­Northern Ireland Executive “in

the near future”, she said.

The department is waiting for a response from the European ­Commission to its position on compliance with the WFD. It argues that households make a contribution towards the costs of water and sewerage services through the domestic Regional Rates. Further funding is raised through central government taxes.

This article first appeared in Utility Week’s print edition of 22 June 2012.

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