APE Seminar | Setting the Right Price
This seminar on water pricing, organised by APE, was attended by over 80 representatives of water operators, political and institutional entities, civil society’s organisations, practitioners and business associations.The high number and variety of participants proves that the interest for the topic is strong and wide-ranging; it also demonstrates that there is a growing demand for opportunities to publicly debate over the future of water resources management.
Ms Christiane Franck, APE’s Chief Executive and Director General of VIVAQUA, outlined APE’s position on the role and limits of water pricing to reconcile the (sometimes conflicting) objectives of protection of water resources, affordability, and financial sustainability of water services. APE’s position, which draws on a comparative analysis carried out by its Working Group on tariffs, argues that water pricing can play an important role if coupled with a good governance and place-based approaches. Furthermore, APE’s members call for the full reinvestment of all financial resources generated by water management for the improvement of water quality and services, in order to favour investments and to tackle affordability problems.
APE’s proposals have then been discussed along with contributions of distinguished speakers from the European Commission (EC), the European Parliament (EP), the OECD, the European Environmental Agency (EEA) and national regulators.
Mr Lukasz Latala, from the European Commission, outlined the ongoing Commission’s activity for the implementation of art. 9 of the Water Framework Directive, and found that APE’s positions are close to those of the Commission.
Mr Gorm Dige, from the EEA, presented the recent EEA’s report on cost recovery through water pricing and focused on the debated issue of water demand elasticity, as well as on the role of economic incentives for environmental costs recovery.
The second section opened with an intervention by Ms Céline Kauffmann, from the OECD, who described the growing role that water regulators are playing different Countries. Ms Kauffmann’s intervention was followed by presentations illustrating concrete cases of water regulators in different Countries/regions: Scotland and its successful reforms for water resource management (Mr Jon Rathjen), Switzerlandand its combination of efficiency and democratic control (Ms Agnes Meyer), Flanders and the ongoing regionalisation of water regulation (Ms Ingegborg Limbourg), and Italy with the significant reforming role played by the national regulator (Mr Lorenzo Bardelli).
The debate also benefitted from the interventions of Members of the European Parliament. Ms Lynn Boylan presented her ongoing work as rapporteur in the EP of the European Citizen Initiative Right2Water and informed about the controversial water reforms in Ireland.
Ms Patrizia Toia emphasised the importance water management for sustainable development, and confirmed the EP’s interest for the water domain and her commitment as Vice-President of the ITRE Committee to closely monitor policy developments in the sector.
In her concluding remarks, the President of APE and of Eau de Paris, Ms Célia Blauel, emphasised that the challenges for the water sector and our environment do not know borders or scale. Therefore, in order to tackle these problems, a continuous dialogue between the local level and the international/European dimension is needed, according to Ms Blauel. Also, as demonstrated by the debate, the collaboration and coordination of all relevant stakeholders is essential; in this framework – Ms Blauel has pointed out – public water operators are ready to give their contribution and take up the challenge.