"We need a shared, collective water governance system," says APE President at EESC's high-level conference "Call for an EU Blue deal"
Aqua Publica Europea participated in the high-level conference "Call for an EU Blue Deal" organised by the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) in Brussels.
On 26 October 2023, Bernard Van Nuffel, President of Aqua Publica Europea, participated in the high-level conference "Call for an EU Blue Deal" organised by the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) in Brussels.
The conference provided an opportunity to present and discuss the EESC's "Blue Deal" initiative, a call for a new and comprehensive water strategy for Europe, with top level representatives of other EU institutions, water experts and key stakeholders such as Pedro Arrojo-Agudo, UN Special Rapporteur on the right to water and sanitation, and Mariana Mazzucato, Co-Chair of the Global Commission on the Economics of Water.
Van Nuffel took part in the first panel dedicated to securing access to water and resilient water infrastructures where discussions centered on access to clean water both globally and in Europe and on how the proposed EU Blue Deal could support the achievement of UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6 – safe drinking water and sanitation for all.
During his remarks, Van Nuffel said that investment needs in the water sector are strongly increasing due to new EU requirements in a context of increased pollution of water catchments, to climate change and its impact both on water quality and water quantity, and to growing expectations from public authorities and society at large towards water operators.
To reconcile investment needs and access to water, there is a real need to strengthen EU actions to minimise pollution upstream and better control pollution at source. It is also crucial to ensure a fairer distribution of costs between sectors, such as the industrial and agricultural ones, and between water users, he continued.
Van Nuffel also highlighted the necessity to better implement the polluter-pays principle in the water sector. This principle, which is the cornerstone of EU's environmental policy, is not sufficiently used. It is high time for polluters to be held accountable for the environmental damages that they or the products they put on the market cause to the environment, he said.
Raising water up the political agenda is key as there is no technological silver bullet to water problems, concluded Van Nuffel, stressing that water efficiency could only be increased through a shared, collective water governance system, in which Aqua Publica Europea plays a facilitating role as a network promoting the exchange of knowledge and best practice.
On that note, Van Nuffel particularly welcomed EESC's opinions on "Access to water" and on "Sustainable and resilient water infrastructures and distribution networks", which both state that public water management is in a better position to guarantee universal access to water and sewage systems at an affordable price and with adequate quality standards and the restoration and protection of ecosystems.
The audience included EESC Members and Delegates, including the rapporteurs responsible for the different set of EESC opinions under the umbrella of the "Blue Deal" initiative, representatives from EU, national and regional institutions, civil society organisations, and key stakeholders working on water-related issues.