NORTHERN IRELAND residents will have to pay water rates for the first time to meet water infrastructure investment costs, Minister of State John Spellar said this week.
Charges will be introduced in 2006, with average domestic water rates of £340 over the next five years. The maximum bill will be capped at £750. A further £55 standing charge would be added to cover maintenance costs.
Non-domestic water users, who currently pay metered charges, could pay up to £1,500 per year after 2006.
Northern Ireland's water supply and treatment agency Water Service plans to invest up to £3bn over the next 20 years to meet European standards on water quality.
It has already allocated £590M over the next three years to fund over 300 water infrastructure upgrades.
'The new charges will provide wholesome drinking water, effective sewerage services, cleaner beaches and rivers, and will contribute to a vibrant and sustainable economy, ' said Northern Ireland Minister John Spellar.
Some £80M will be spent on water treatment upgrades, £250M on wastewater treatment improvements, £140M on water distribution networks and £120M on sewerage.