October 2, 2022

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Proposals to change the ownership of Irish Water into one entity called Uisce Éireann from next year will cost at least €5 million, according to draft legislation.

Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien published the Water Services (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill 2022 in recent days.

The legislation would separate Irish Water from the Ervia Group, of which the utility is a subsidiary, and would be known as Uisce Éireann instead.

“The costs arising from separation of Irish Water from the Ervia Group include once-off separation costs of €5m,” an explanatory memorandum accompanying the legislation says.

“The change in Irish Water’s name to Uisce Éireann may result in additional costs being incurred by Uisce Éireann in branding across the organisation.

“It is intended that such costs will be kept to a minimum and the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage intends to engage with Irish Water on the approach to this matter as well as quantifying the costs involved.”

The memorandum also says that as Uisce Éireann (Irish Water) will take over local authority water services from January 1st 2023, it will be necessary to “rebrand relevant local authority vehicles and premises with the Uisce Éireann logo at this time in any case”.

The Bill includes “revised accountability and auditing arrangements” such that Uisce Éireann will be accountable to the Public Accounts Committee “as well as being subject to audit by the Comptroller and Auditor General”.

The Bill is due to go through the Dáil and Seanad during the autumn with a view to the legislation being enacted before the end of the year.

Mr O’Brien previously said the separation of Irish Water from the Ervia Group was “in the best strategic interests of the water services and gas networks businesses”.

In a statement, Irish Water said plans for the establishment of the company as “a standalone, publicly owned, regulated utility” began in 2019 and 2020 while “operational separation” was achieved in 2022.

“Full legal separation of Irish Water from Ervia is to be completed in 2023,” it said.

“The costs of the Irish Water separation programme and the Gas Networks Ireland (GNI)/Ervia integration were agreed with the department to include separate IT systems, the establishment of two pension schemes, data collection, business readiness, legal requirements, contract splitting, regulatory issues, finance and tax reviews, and facilities.”

The utility said the published Bill represents the “next stage” in the process whereby Irish Water will legally separate from Ervia and assume full responsibility for the delivery of all public water services as “the standalone national authority for water services”.

“As part of the change Irish Water will be known by its Irish name, Uisce Éireann, which is in the spirit of the Official Languages (Amendment) Act 2021, with no changes planned prior to the Bill being enacted,” it added.

“The change in Irish Water’s name to Uisce Éireann may result in additional costs being incurred,” the utility said.

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