Posted by Jill Kerby in Features.

Aa we get closer to October 1st, I’ve noticed that most people I know are finally beginning to talk about the upcoming water charges they will have to start paying and about how much their bill might be from next January.

None of my neighbours have yet received their letter from Irish Water inviting them to “apply” for the pleasure of having to pay for their water. We must also supply the company with everyone’s PPS numbers and confirm the numbers of people living in the house.

No doubt the letters are on their way.

We’re not yet metered either, which means, as one neighbout actually said: “We haven’t yet joined the rest of the frogs in Irish Water’s pot, waiting for the heat to be gradually turned up.”

But we will. Only households that are entirely off the mains system and have their own wells and septic tanks will escape Irish Water. Those who use only one or the other service (mains water or main sewerage) will initially pay half the flat rate of €176 for the first adult and €102 for every other adult until metering is in place, plus a six-month grace period. Once their inflow of water is metered, they will pay half the new water rate of €4.88 per every 1,000 litres consumed.

Every metered household will be getting a six-month grace period before the initial €176/€102 adult flat-charge-ends (Children under 18 will not be charged during the transition period).

But once you’ve been on the Irish Water metered supply for six months, all water consumption in your household, less an annual 30,000-litre free allowance, will be charged at a rate of €4.88 per 1,000 litres.

Households with children under 18 will get 21,000 litres free, the amount children are estimated to use annually, though originally it was estimated at 38,000 litres. All these charges/free allocations will be reviewed in 2016.

If, like me, your household comprises of three adults, our unmetered bill will be €380: €176 for the first adult and €102 for every other adult. If, post-metering, we end up using the estimated 140 litres of water that the Government expects each adult will use each day, our annual water bill, less the 30,000 free litres, will jump to just over €600 a year.

This set-rate transition period and the six months after the meter is installed is supposed to give us time to see how much water we are consuming so that we can change bad habits and learn to conserve. This means repairing leaks, turning off the taps, when brushing our teeth, avoiding baths, taking shorter, non-power showers (or showering at the gym), using conservation-friendly appliances, using waste water and water butts for watering the garden, washing the car and our pets etc.

As I’ve written here before, it might also be a good time to consider ways in which less mains water altogether can be used and perhaps to capture and recycle the rainwater that pours off our roofs.

There are companies in the market that offer to install systems for owners of public buildings (like schools and nursing homes, sports clubs etc) as well as in private homes.

Tank-and pump-based, the cost of rain harvesting will depend on the size of the system you need (tanks are either put underground or attached to the side of buildings) and on whether you are only trying to substitute the water used in your toilet and washing machines or that used for drinking, bathing and in the kitchen. If the latter, a filtration system is then also installed.

The big question that needs to be answered is whether rain harvesting isn’t just possible (the bigger the roof size, the more water that will be captured) but also whether it will be cost-effective. The price for a typical three-bed, semi-detached house can range from €1,200–€2,000 to harvest about half the (non-drinkable) water used and perhaps half as much again to provide purified water. Payback time can be a period from three to seven years.

Installation costs for rainwater-capture all qualify for the Home Renovation Incentive Scheme, which lasts until the end of December 2015, and from which you can claim tax credits for the 13.5% VAT you would otherwise pay in full.

Builders I’ve spoken to recently regarding another new, radical, cost-cutting energy process called daylight energy harvesting to replace electricity, oil and gas to fuel existing heating devices (a subject to which I will return to soon) suggest that the most cost-effective and efficient way to install these substitute systems is via new-build houses. Anyone reading this who is buying or building a brand new home may want to have a special word with their contractor.

Meanwhile, we all still have time between now and next January to try and cut our increasingly expensive water and utility bills. Time is the one resource we can still control, so don’t waste it.