A spokesperson for the Department of the Environment has said the figures reported in today's papers about the potential costs of water charges are “purely speculative” and “based on guess work at this stage”.

The spokeswoman said the average cost for a household would not be known until the level of consumption at which no charge would apply was first established.

She said this would be deliberated on in the New Year.

A report in today's Irish Times said the cost per household of water metering would likely be between €250 and €400 per annum.

On the suggested establishment of a water board under the auspices of Bord na Móna, the spokeswoman said it was one of many options being looked at.

She said the establishment of an entirely new board had not been ruled out nor had a merger with another body such as the NRA or Bord Gáis.

Water metering is still due to begin in 2014. Contracts for metering will be issued in the New Year.