Irish Water has confirmed there was a significant reduction in revenue from water charges from bills sent out at the start of 2016.

The bills relate to services used during the last three months of 2015. 

Figures released by the company show that the amount collected in charges was down by more than 20% compared with the previous billing cycle.

Irish Water said it is currently in the process of sending out new bills to households for the first three months of the year but that these will be the last bills it will be issuing following the recent Government announcement to suspend water charges from the end of March.

Today's billings update confirmed that public willingness to pay water charges started unravelling during the first quarter of this year following the outcome of the General Election in late February.

Irish Water issued its fourth quarterly bills to households during January and February.

However by the end of March it had collected 20% less in payments from households than in the final quarter of last year.

The amount was €33m down from €42.3m over the previous quarter. 

During that period also, 8,000 of the 200,000 customers who had signed up to pay their water charges by direct debit cancelled their direct debit mandates.

However, Irish Water said that a total of 975,000 people had paid domestic water charges during 2015 which is 64% of households liable to the charges.

The total amount collected over the year was €144m which was 53% of the total income due from domestic charges during 2015.

Unsurprising water bill payments are dropping - Alan Kelly

The former environment minister Alan Kelly has said he is not surprised that fewer people are now paying water bills.

He said  the numbers paying was heading towards 70% until Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government Simon Coveney suggested in early March that charges might be reviewed.

Mr Kelly again accused Fianna Fáil of environmental treason and added that it was inevitable payment figures would diminish following their agreement with Fine Gael.

A spokesperson for the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government said the figures have been noted by Minister Coveney.