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Thursday 30 November 2023 Dublin: 2°C

FactCheck: Is Alan Kelly right to say 80% of people are paying for water?’s GE16 FactCheck has tested an eye-catching claim by the Minister for the Environment.


AS PART OF our GE16 FactCheck series, we’re testing the truth of claims made by candidates and parties on the campaign trail.

If you hear something that doesn’t sound quite right, or see a claim that looks great, but you want to confirm it, email

Noel Tuohy in Co Louth remembered hearing an interesting claim on the radio on Thursday, and asked us to look into it.

PA-21513150 PA Images PA Images

Claim: 80% of people in Ireland are paying for water – Alan Kelly
Verdict: Probably TRUE, although the exact figure is more likely around 77%.

What was said:

Speaking on Newstalk Breakfast on Thursday morning, Kelly stated:

The reality is 80% of people in this country are paying for water. When you add up the volume who are paying for water through Irish Water, and you add up all the people…who’ve been paying for water schemes, who’ve been paying for private wells, well then it comes up to around 79-80%.

The facts

The most recent available figures from Irish Water state that in the third billing cycle, 61% of the company’s customer base of 1.522 million households paid the charges.

Irish Water puts the number at 928,000, although based on the percentage they state, it should be 928,420.

According to the most recent comprehensive official figures available, the 2011 Census, 45,774 households had a private well, which they pay some amount to maintain and keep safe, and 161,532 pay into a private group water scheme.


The 144,428 households on a local authority group scheme are counted among Irish Water’s non-domestic customer base.

The company was unable to give an exact payment rate for these customers, but said it was around the 90% mark – which would work out as 129,985.

It is possible that, since 2011, a certain number of households have switched their water source from public mains to group schemes or private wells.

However, they are still paying for water in one form or another, and therefore still encompassed by Kelly’s claim.

Adding all these figures together, we reach a total of 1,265,711 – which is 76.7% of the 1,649,408 private households counted by the CSO in the 2011 Census.

So Minister Kelly’s statement is true, although it probably very slightly exaggerates the actual likely figure.


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