FAMILIES who do not pay their water charges face being saddled with a €1,600 bill after four years.
Irish Water is to hit households with cumulative penalties which will increase each year a bill remains unpaid.
And families who do not pay face even harsher penalties as Environment Minister Alan Kelly said that Irish Water may seek to haul people before the courts.
As the Irish Water nightmare continued, Mr Kelly outlined a revised charging regime that the Government hopes will help quell public anger.
And in a controversial move, he announced that landlords will be entitled to deduct unpaid water charges from a tenant's deposit.
Householders who do not register with Irish Water by February 2 will lose out on the €100 conservation payment.
Late payment penalties will be added every 12 months - of €30 for a single person and €60 for a household of two adults or more.
These penalties will accumulate over time as long as a bill is unpaid.
The overall penalty will double after two years, treble after three years and increase fourfold after four years.
This means that after four years, an average family who do not pay will be facing a bill - after combined charges and penalties - of €1,640.
That's €1,000 more than if they had signed up to pay the water charges over that time.
Mr Kelly said that bringing people to court is an issue for Irish Water but that he hopes it does not get that far.
Under the revised charging regime a single person household will pay €60 while all other households will pay no more than €160 under the cap arrangement. That's once the so-called €100 water conservation grant is taken into account.
The grant won't be in place until September next year.
Customers must register and pay the full €260 or €160 cap before the grant will be refunded by the Department of Social Protection.
Non-payers will be pursued through the courts and it will affect their credit rating.
Meanwhile, the deadline for registration has again been pushed back, to February, 2015
The Minister confirmed that 500,000 water meters have already been installed - but the Herald can reveal that just 140,000 have been installed in Dublin. Opposition TDs reacted angrily.
Fianna Fail's Barry Cowen dubbed the announcement about the water charges a "massive climbdown" by the Government.
Sinn Fein's environment spokesman, Brian Stanley, said Irish Water was "a shambles".
Mr Kelly insisted that the announcement will provide "certainty, simplicity and affordability," adding: "We have listened to the people and have taken stock.
The detail about the full extent of charges was made with less than three weeks to the December 10 Right To Water protest.
"Nothing that Minister Kelly announced today is going to stop the tidal wave of protests," People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett vowed.