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Drinking Water for All | How to Implement Affordability and Public Participation Mechanisms in the European Union?

BRUSSELS, February 12, 2014 /PRNewswire/ --


The European Union is debating on the question of implementation of access to drinking water and sanitation as a human right. On next 17 February, the topic will be discussed in the first hearing at the European Parliament in the framework of a European Citizens' Initiative (ECI). In EU countries, the most common challenge with respect to this issue is related to the affordability of water bills. Low-income households may find it difficult to pay their bills. Large families may be adversely impacted by tariff structures that make water more expensive to large consumers.

If the European Union seriously wants to declare safe drinking water and sanitation as a human right, it can only be done by taking into account these challenges. However, the recent debate has been driven by arguments for and against private sector participation, rather than by affordability issues. This dispute too often driven by ideological considerations does not help to reconcile the somehow antagonistic goals of providing cost-effective, high quality access to water wile taking into account environmental and affordability issues.

The Thomas More Institute Report argues that the success on recognising water as a human right in the EU does not depend on the legal form of the operating entity - as both public and private bodies have a long history of practice. It rather draws the attention to intelligent and locally-adapted solutions that have been implemented in the EU to tackle affordability issues. Resolving affordability challenges implies that cost-effective public services keep the overall cost as low as possible and at the same time provide specific aid mechanisms that target those water-users that have real difficulties to pay water bills. In Europe, public and private water operators have shown their capacity to propose and implement intelligent and locally-adapted solutions to these affordability challenges.

To find adapted solutions for affordability challenges, all stakeholders have to participate in the process: governments and municipalities, their employees, as well as the representatives of the civil society such as consumer associations and NGOs.

High quality water is only good if everyone can pay for it. And only if everyone can, it deserves the status of a human right.

Jean-Thomas LESUEUR, délégué général de l'Institut Thomas More | [email protected] | Tel : +33(0)1-49-49-03-30 | Fax : +33(0)1-49-49-03-33


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