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DANVAs direktør Carl-Emil Larsen er præsident for den europæiske vandforening EurEau og har skrevet denne artikel i EU Parlamentets blad som optakt til konference i Bruxelles den 25. marts.

Realising the human right to water and sanitation

The Water Framework Directive acknowledges that “water is not a commercial product like any other but, rather, a heritage which must be protected, defended and treated as such”.

This principle guides EurEau’s members in their provision of water services to 400 million citizens in Europe.

EurEau members share the view that the human right to water and sanitation should be part of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, and are committed to make this human right a reality by providing high quality water and waste water services 24 hours, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

The human right to water does not mean that water should be for free. According to the UN Special Rapporteur Catarina de Albuquerque, to realise this right, “water and sanitation must be available, physically accessible, affordable, acceptable, safe and of quality”.

Providing water services is an activity with important economic aspects, whether carried out by public or by private operators. But since water services are services of general interest, essential to public health and well-being, they have to be subject to strict regulation.

The water sector is a capital-intensive industry and water infrastructures have to be properly maintained since future generations have the right to enjoy affordable water and sanitation with the same (or higher) current degree of safety and quality.

Securing appropriate funding is a prerequisite for the sustainability of the water sector and the water environment. Therefore governance and accountability mechanisms are fundamental in ensuring the optimal use of finance within the sector.

According to the principle of subsidiarity enshrined in the EU Treaties, member states are responsible for organizing water services. Currently, the majority of operators in Europe are public. One in three citizens receives water services from private operators.

The Water Framework Directive requires “an adequate contribution of the different water uses to the recovery of the costs of water services”. Water is both a heritage and a scarce resource and needs to be protected from over-abstraction and pollution for future generations.

The polluter pays and the user pays principles need to be more widely applied in water management and water pricing policies, in order to ensure the right level of environmental protection and a sustainable management of water resources.

EurEau recognises the difficult financial circumstances many European citizens may face and is supportive of the various initiatives, at national and local levels, that ensure that water is affordable for all.

We call for an appropriate level of water tariffs that should not only cover the resource and operational costs of providing the service, but that also allow water companies to invest in infrastructure.

An artificially low level of water prices would not only lead to the depletion of water resources, but would fail to secure investments in infrastructure maintenance, leaving a heavy burden of investment for future generations.

To learn more about the food, energy and tourism challenges facing us and contribute to the water debate, join us at the Water Matters conference on 25 March 2015, in Bozar, Brussels! Read about the topics and the speakers at www.eureauevents.org.

Venez-nombreux!

Carl-Emil Larsen, President, EurEau

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About EurEau

EurEau is the voice of Europe’s water sector. We represent public and private drinking and waste water service providers. Our members are the national water service associations from 27 European countries.

We bring sector professionals together to discuss quality, resource efficiency and access to water for Europe’s citizens and businesses.

Employing around 500,000 people, the sector makes a significant contribution to the European economy.