Without getting into trouble in the water supply in Flanders without serious problems. Drinking water then becomes unaffordable. The Antwerp water company Water-Link is now making a proposal. By controlling production and transport in Flanders, investment costs and water prices can be reduced. “The traditional way of pumping water through a pipe is behind us,” says Water-Link chairman André Gantman.
Due to the drought of recent weeks, the debate about drinking water has erupted again. Antwerp governor Cathy Berx launched the idea of charging higher rates to those who use a lot of tap water. Only, according to Water-Link chairman André Gantman, a structural debate is needed.
“The traditional way of pumping water through a pipe to bring it to people’s homes via a tap is behind us,” says Gantman. “A study for the Water-Link supply area shows that by 2050 there will be times of the year with a shortage of three cubic meters of water per second. That will be no different for the rest of Flanders. Therefore, additional investments are needed to prevent this. Only drinking water is a basic need, so there are no additional income for these investments.”
So if a water company wants security of supply, it has to act. For all water companies together, this amounts to an amount of 1.2 billion euros for various projects. The reuse of water for, for example, Total Energie is an investment of 120 million euros. The construction of a new reservoir will cost 80 to 100 million euros.
“That is an immense amount of money,” says Franky Cosaert, CEO of Water-Link. “There is an alternative. A study showed that if we let production and transport be centrally controlled, the investment costs would fall to around 500 million euros. This is due to an optimal match between supply and demand. You already have that for electricity with Elia and for gas with Fluxys, but this does not exist for water.”
Such a central influence has the additional advantage that the situation, or the surface of groundwater, can be addressed. There are full discussions in Antwerp between Water-Link and Pidpa. Water-Link extracts water from the Albert Canal and Pidpa from groundwater.
“By being able to alternate between surface area and our land, we can make a profit of a cubic meter of water per second, which is already a third of the possible shortages,” says Cosaert. “In addition, it is also more sustainable to address the source that is under the least pressure at that time. By mainly addressing groundwater in the summer and surface water in the winter, the groundwater table can recover in the winter.”
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This should keep it affordable. Only then is the discussion about how the rates for the water should be determined. According to Gantman, he is not satisfied with the current tariff structure with the basic tariff and the comfort tariff for all consumption above the basic tariff. The Water-Link chairman advocated for five years to provide three liters per day per person free of charge. This is the consumption for drinking and cooking. Everything else will then continue to pay. A water subscription is also being considered, in which a certain volume is included and only the additional consumption still has to be paid.
“Flemish minister Zuhal Demir (N-VA) is putting together a working group to look at the water price,” says Gantman. “Hopefully this will all make sense and decisions will be made soon.”