The Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government has rejected suggestions that payment for excessive usage was water charges through the back door.

Simon Coveney described the recommendations from the expert commission on water as a "good basis for discussion".

The report by the expert commission said that under its recommendations the vast majority of householders will not have to pay for water.

In its 63-page report, the commission recommends that normal household usage should be paid for by the State in the form of general taxation.

It says that the choosing a dedicated tax or an adjustment to existing taxes to fund this would be a matter of budgetary policy.

The commission recommends that excessive or wasteful use be paid for by the householder.

In terms of what qualifies as normal usage for households, the report recommends that the Energy Regulator and a public water forum should be part of a transparent process to assess this.

It says this is not a free allowance as it would be paid for by the state.

The commission also proposes that the regulator should determine the charge for those who use more than the normal requirement.

Special provision should be given to those with special medical or other needs, it says.

In exceptional circumstances, the commission states that people should be able to apply for a waiver regarding excessive usage.

The report also says that those who have paid their bill to date should be treated no less favourably than those who have not.

It also recommends that a suitable constitutional provision on the public ownership of water should be fully addressed by the special Oireachtas committee that will look at the report.

It says that while the expert commission cannot purport to offer an authoritative opinion on European law but states it is satisfied that its recommendations would comply with the EU directive on water.

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Speaking on RTÉ's Six One, Mr Coveney said he hopes the recommendations will find political consensus among the majority of parties and that they are consistent with Ireland's international obligations.

The minister said it is his personal belief that those who have paid their charges should not be refunded, and the money should be recouped from those who did not pay.

"I think most reasonable people, I hope anyway, will see this as an opportunity to put this issue to bed. There is an acceptance in this report that for normal usage of water, the taxpayer should pay for that. And that only people who are wasting water, or who are using more that what is accepted as normal usage would have to make a contribution."

In relation to those not served by public water supplies, the report says equity must be maintained and when allowances for consumers on public supplies are determined this must be examined.

It finds equity should be maintained through additional subsidy "or other means" for group schemes and private wells. 

The eight-member commission was set up last June and chaired by Kevin Duffy.

The group met formally on ten occasions from July to November, and met with or received submissions from 70 groups.

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