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Childers welcomes clarification from European Commission re water charges and EU Law

News item

Tuesday 9 Dec 2014

Independent MEP for Dublin, Nessa Childers, today welcomed clarification from the European Commission that member states, including Ireland, do not have to apply individualised domestic water charges to comply with the Water Framework Directive.

‘Each EU member state is obliged to draw up plans under this directive to show how water sources are protected from pollution, and how the cost of water services is carefully priced, including domestic usage.  It is an extremely good piece of European environmental legislation – and we have much work to do to improve water quality in Ireland.

‘However I am perplexed about reports that Ireland will formally submit a plan to include domestic water charges under our EU Water Framework Directive plans, and I have sought clarification from the Department of Foreign Affairs in this regard.

‘I strongly recommend that we reserve the option to design our water services funding to suit our needs in Ireland.

‘We also need to ask the question whether the commodification of domestic water was indeed a first step towards privatisation, and I fully support the calls for a referendum to protect water as a public good under the Irish Constitution.  My question to the European Commission about privatization and EU Treaties can be viewed here.

‘This is an opportunity for Ireland to look at alternative means to upgrade our water services, and I welcome the news that the Irish Government have submitted a request that water services development be included for funding under the new EU investment fund recently announced by Commission Juncker.

Contact: Mario De Sa 00-32-474 08 80 19 / Bronwen Maher 087-784 1937

Note to Editor: 

Priority Question to the European Commission regarding Water Framework Directive obligations and water charges

The Water Framework Directive requires that each user must bear the cost of consuming water, and that adequate water pricing for usage must act as an incentive for the sustainable use of water resources in order to achieve the environmental objectives under the Directive.

Under the Directive, Member States are required to ensure that the price charged to water consumers, both domestic and non-domestic, for the abstraction and distribution of fresh water and the collection and treatment of waste water – reflects the true costs.  The Directive allows that Member states may take account of the social, environmental and economic effects of water usage in recovering the costs of water services.

Therefore will the Commission describe the various schemes, or methods, allowed to member states to comply with the legal obligation to recover the cost of water services under the Water Framework Directive?  Can the Commission also specify if cost recovery for domestic users must be linked to individual consumption?

EN P-008827/2014 Answer given by Mr Vella on behalf of the Commission (5.12.2014)

The responsibility for implementation of the Water Framework Directive (WFD)  lies with the Member States and there is no obligation to follow particular schemes or methods. However, methodologies for calculation of cost recovery of water services do exist and are being developed further. For example there is work under way within the Common Implementation Strategy for the WFD implementation on further guidance on assessment of environmental and resource costs.

There is no specific requirement in Art 9 of the WFD for cost recovery to rely on individual consumption. However, for the Commission, an adequate implementation of the principle of incentive water pricing included in the provisions of Art 9, as well as of the more general polluter-pays principle embedded in the Treaties, requires a clear link between water tariffs and actual individual water consumption. In this context, water metering seems to be a basic precondition for proper implementation of the WFD.

[1]     Directive 2000/60/EC, OJ L 327, 22.12.2000, p. 1–73

[1]     http://ec.europa.eu/environment/water/water-framework/economics/pdf/Guidance%201%20-%20Economics%20-%20WATECO.pdf



Water Framework Directive Article 9 –  Recovery of costs for water services

1. Member States shall take account of the principle of recovery of the costs of water services, including environmental and resource costs, having regard to the economic analysis conducted according to Annex III, and in accordance in particular with the polluter pays principle.  Member States shall ensure by 2010 that water-pricing policies provide adequate incentives for users to use water resources efficiently, and thereby contribute to the environmental objectives of this Directive, an adequate contribution of the different water uses, disaggregated into at least industry, households and agriculture, to the recovery of the costs of water services, based on the economic analysis conducted according to Annex III and taking account of the polluter pays principle. Member States may in so doing have regard to the social, environmental and economic effects of the recovery as well as the geographic and climatic conditions of the region or regions affected.

2. Member States shall report in the river basin management plans on the planned steps towards implementing paragraph 1 which will contribute to achieving the environmental objectives of this Directive and on the contribution made by the various water uses to the recovery of the costs of water services.

3. Nothing in this Article shall prevent the funding of particular preventive or remedial measures in order to achieve the objectives of this Directive.

4. Member States shall not be in breach of this Directive if they decide in accordance with established practices not to apply the provisions of paragraph 1, second sentence, and for that purpose the relevant provisions of paragraph 2, for a given water-use activity, where this does not compromise the purposes and the achievement of the objectives of this Directive. Member States shall report the reasons for not fully applying paragraph 1, second sentence, in the river basin management plans.