Parliament’s Environment Committee calls for EU wide water meters

There should be a European Union-wide water pricing policy, with water meters installed on farms, in industry and in private households if the threat of acute water shortages over the coming decades is to be averted, says a new report adopted by the European Parliament’s Environment Committee on 9 October.

The report was adopted by 30 votes to 18, with one abstention, and endorses the European Commission’s view, set out in a consultation paper that water pricing should be used to encourage the sustainable use of water, cover the costs of services associated with water and reduce water pollution. The issue is a major aspect of the EU Water Framework Directive, adopted last year (see related story). The committee’s vote acts as an initial pointer to Parliament’s response to the draft legislation to implement Article 9 of the directive – requiring pricing policies to provide adequate incentives to efficient use of water – when it is published.

The committee says that it opposes the liberalisation of the water market, and voted to delete references in the report to public-private sector co-operation. The report emphasises that water is not a commercial product and that access to it is an inalienable human right. It must be used responsibly with individual sectors of the economy bearing the “environmental and resource costs they have caused” and metering devices are essential for this, the committee says, also calling for polluters to pay for the costs of treating water.

The pricing system should be progressive, and appropriate for the geographical area and the sector concerned, but should also ensure that all consumers – especially for domestic use – are able to afford the minimum amount of water needed to maintain quality of life, said the committee. There should also be penalties for wasting water, and any water-related subsidies that run counter to EU environmental legislation should be phased out. However, pricing should not be the only method of developing sustainable water use, says the report, but should be a mix of measures including public information campaigns.

A spokesman for the Environment Committee was unavailable for comment on the effects of the proposals on private water companies.

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie