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Aqua Publica Europea's Newsletter - December 2018

Aqua Publica Europea | Newsletter | December 2018

Aqua Publica welcomes the Austrian Public Services association 


VOWGIn October, the Austrian Association of Public Services and Public Entreprises (VÖWG - Verband der öffentlichen Wirtschaft und Gemeinwirtschaft Österreichs) joined Aqua Publica Europea. VÖWG represents over a hundred companies from the whole spectrum of public service providers, including associations of operators that provide Austrian citizens with high-quality water services. We very much look forward to working together in the future on public water management topics. In Austria, water management is very largely in public hands with the main models being either direct or delegated public management. 


New Aqua Publica Water Erasmus exchanges take place this semester



In the second half of 2018, more Aqua Publica members have engaged in stimulating Water Erasmus exchanges to continue advancing common objectives and learning from each other’s best practices. It was the case for Scottish Water whose staff visited Eau de Paris (read more) this summer to talk about the deployment of city water fountains to increase access to water, a key goal for public water operators. Then Belgian SWDE (Société Wallone des Eaux) traveled to Turin, Italy to exchange with local operator SMAT (Società Metropolitana Acque Torino) on innovation and research and development, with a focus on Water Safety Plans (read more). Finally, a team from Gruppo CAP went from Milan to Hamburg (read more) for a week of discussions on waste water treatment. Aqua Publica Europea continues to provide a platform for exchanges and to support our members in their mutual learning initiatives. 

The future of water governance under debate: Aqua Publica organises and participates in high-level seminars around Europe

As regulatory frameworks at EU and national levels are evolving to strengthen water management, increase citizens’ trust in water, ensure equitable access and sustainable water use, Aqua Publica Europea welcomed two hundred participants in Cremona (Italy) on 26 October 2018 for the seminar ‘The New Drinking Water Directive and Beyond, a reflection on the implications, perspectives and challenges for those who work, on the ground, to provide high quality services: water operators.


High-level speakers, including the European Commission’s Director for Quality of Life Veronica Manfredi as well the President of the European Network of Water Regulators (WAREG) Andrea Guerrini, and representatives from the European Investment Bank, local authorities and Aqua Publica’s own members identified key elements to successfully address challenges: from clear and appropriate governance, rules  and responsibility distribution to transparency, investments and stakeholders participation. You can read all about the event here

In the last months Aqua Publica Europea also contributed to ongoing national debates on water reform programmes in different countries. On 19 November, Aqua Publica participated in a seminar in Turin, Italy organised by the local water operator SMAT, and which aimed to exchange views on different legislative bills on water governance currently discussed in the Italian Parliament (read more here). On 23 November, Aqua Publica was in Madrid, Spain to discuss national initiatives to improve water governance with water operators, local authorities, civil society representatives and politicians during EMASESA’s (operator of Seville) conference on access to water and tariffs (read more here). Both of these events gave the association opportunities to provide a European perspective and to share members’ experiences. 

Public operators’ views on the review of European water legislation

The latest regulatory developments across European countries have brought water to the forefront of political debate. Public water operators are ready to take up new challenges and they contribute to discussions through their expertise. This semester, at Aqua Publica, we welcomed the (now well-advanced) Drinking Water Directive revision but also called for more ambition to increase access to water and for more adequate new requirements (see our reaction to the Parliament’s vote here); we also believe that water reuse is an excellent opportunity to tackle climate change challenges as long as it is, above all, done sustainably and coherently (see our position here) and on the landmark environmental Water Framework Directive we call on the EU, whichever steps comes next, to preserve some of the revolutionary principles included back in 2000 to secure resource protection: the polluter-pays principle, the cost-recovery principle and the protection of catchment areas.

SMART.MET project moves to the next stage towards de development of innovative solutions

Aqua Publica and seven of its members have been involved in the EU-funded SMART.MET project for the development of demand-driven solutions for smart water metering. Throughout the summer, companies have submitted their offers and the new phase of the project is about to be launched. Selected companies will now focus on solution exploration and design. Next year, will come the prototyping and the testing phases. Read more on the project’s website

The road to public water management – debates continue

The public management model for water continues to gain traction. In Europe, Barcelona’s City Council approved the call to hold a public consultation on the city’s water management model, after having rejected it a first time earlier in the year. Campaigners had collected over 25.000 citizens’ signature supporting the request. Although the consultation can only be organised after the municipal elections of 2019, this green light means that water management, which has been private for decades, could eventually switch back to public hands. In England, where water management is fully private, a heated political debate is taking place. Labour party members are promising to end privatisation should they access power and new evidence comes from the University of Greenwich’s Public Services International Research Unit whose research on private companies’ finances and investments has highlighted what they view as unnecessary loans burdening users to pay for dividends. Elsewhere, the American city of Baltimore (Maryland) became, in November, the first major US city to ban water privatisation by amending its charter (the equivalent of a city constitution), an amendment supported by 77% of voters. The initiative could spread to other cities, according to city officials. 

Aqua Publica members raise awareness on tap water as a quality, healthy and sustainable option for drinking water

  • Aquawal uses comedy in video campaign, in partnership with Belgian TV personality (here)
  • Lombard members choose pedagogy towards elementary schools with Aquabook (here)
  • Promedio distributes free glass bottles (here)
  • Scottish Water encourages to carry refillable water bottles (here)
  • Padania Acque organises a taste testing street campaign (here)
  • Hamburg Wasser emphasises the need to protect drinking water against pollution (here)