Within Ireland, both the public water supply and group water scheme (GWS) sectors are crucial entities in the provision of water supply to individuals. In this study, variances in water charges and operation are assessed via an in-depth survey of 104 GWSs in order to establish the range in both domestic and commercial charges, and also to establish the factors influencing these charges within the rural water sector. Results are compared with the commercial water charges of the 34 local authorities involved in the provision of public water and wastewater services. Devoid of regulation, tariff setting is highly decentralised with substantial variations in connection, fixed and volumetric charges across both sectors. Greater transparency is essential to establish the full cost of supply to domestic and non-domestic consumers. Findings reveal average GWS volumetric charges to be 35% lower than public supplies, resulting in communities wishing to retain ownership of their schemes as there is much greater control over water pricing. Historic underinvestment has led to an infrastructure deficit and deficiencies within the public supply sector are discussed, such as inadequate revenue collection and high unaccounted-for water. Furthermore, recommendations are made towards effective operation and pricing in light of proposed government plans to establish a national water authority.

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