The first meeting of a special Oireachtas Committee on the Future Funding of Domestic Water Services has taken place.

The Joint Committee, which is being chaired by Independent Senator Pádraig Ó Céidigh, remained in private session for almost two hours. 

The committee then heard from Kevin Duffy, the Chairman of the expert commission which published a report on water charges two weeks ago.

Mr Duffy said the public consultation with a broad range of groups, political parties and individuals was a valuable process. 

He said one of the most common concerns expressed to the commission was the possibility of Irish Water being privatised. 

Mr Duffy told the committee that the concern was not confined to those opposed to water charges, but was also expressed by some groups supportive of water charges.

Mr Duffy also said while there was some support for a central authority to manage and deliver water services, some felt the reputation of Irish Water had been damaged and a different body may achieve more support.

Mr Duffy said the system of water being paid for through general taxation "has the merit of simplicity and is progressive".

He said it did not address the issue of water conservation, and he said funding for water infrastructure could be 'crowded out' by demands from other parts of the system.

The committee was also told that a number of independent reviews, both in Ireland and internationally, have come to the conclusion that a volumetric charging system based on metering, supported by a well-targeted affordability system, represents the approach that "is most in line with best practice". 

Mr Duffy said the original charging plan approved by the Commission for Energy Regulation was also generally consistent with established practice in a number of other jurisdictions.

He said the practical effect of the commission's recommendations were that the State would be a customer of Irish Water and the exchequer would pay for the volume of water supplied to meet the normal domestic and personal needs of citizens at tariffs approved by the CER as a normal commercial transaction. 

The next meeting of the committee will take place in January 2017.