Irish Water has deferred the introduction of a new charging system for non-domestic customers, because of the ongoing crisis caused by Covid-19.

The new regime was due to come into effect on 1 May and apply to over 183,000 water and 164,000 wastewater connections from the business, industrial and agricultural sectors, as well as to public bodies, charities, and social enterprises.

Under the new framework, approximately 54% of non-domestic customers would see bill increases as a result of the new charges. 

But it was felt that any increased bill would fall at a time when the customers concerned are facing considerable uncertainty.

The decision is being supported by the Commission for Regulation of Utilities and the Government.

"This is the most prudent and fair decision that could be taken at this time when there are substantial challenges for businesses as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic," said Commissioner Dr Paul McGowan.

"The CRU will continue to engage with Irish Water and the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government to agree an appropriate time scale as to when the new framework can be implemented."

It had been planned that firms would start receiving communication about the changes in the coming weeks.

"With significant uncertainty facing businesses and enterprises at the present time, it was agreed that the introduction of the new framework and national set of charges should be deferred. The situation is to be reviewed in the coming months in light of emerging developments with Covid-19," Irish Water's Head of Customer Operations, Yvonne Harris, said.

"We will ensure we keep businesses and their representative groups up to date as the situation develops. In the interim, we will continue to use the existing charges and work with businesses who have been impacted by the Covid-19 emergency."

The new system is designed to replace 500 different water and wastewater tariffs in 44 areas around the country.