Friday, December 14, 2018
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Water: the debate over public or private management in France

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Agnès Verdier-Molinié. Director of the Foundation for Research on administrations and public policy (IFRAP).

Is private (really) more expensive than the public in water management and why? In answer to this question, the IFRAP Foundation replies that is that several conditions are absolutely necessary: greater transparency on water pricing, allocation of contracts, regularly renegotiate these, open to competition and compare what is comparable, by making municipalities pay the same charges and taxes as private operators. When all these steps are completed, it will eventually leave a somewhat sterile debate that does not allow the construction of a water market above all suspicion in France.

To start with, here are some figures:

? A cubic meter of water costs an average of 3.62 Euros;

? The average monthly bill per capita is 36 Euros, at the rate of 150 litres per person per day, makes 120 m3 per year in an average household;

? In 2008, the total bill reached 12,000 million Euros (home users and large consumers);

? Of this service, the responsibility of municipalities, 71%is awarded to private operators (80% of contracts are Veolia and Suez) via contracts of delegation of public services, and the rest is managed directly by municipalities;

? In France, there are over 900,000 kilometers of pipelines.

Finding out information about the price of water services and understand the water bill is the work of Titans, although the law states that every citizen should be able to access essential data such as price, quality and service performance.

In 2008, the ONEMA (National office for Water and Aquatic Environment) launched the Water Observatory to establish a database of water services in France, accessible to all. Currently, only 5% of municipalities have reported their data, despite this being mandatory. In March 2011, the "France Libertés" Foundation (created in 1986 by Danielle Mitterrand) and 60 million consumers launched a collaborative survey to establish a complete mapping of the price of water services in France: how much water, municipality by municipality, what price, which services are included in this price, who manages the water... the results of this survey were published on March 14 the same year on the prixledeau.fr site.

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