Integrated water management: water loop closed
On 22 December 2000 the European Water Framework Directive entered into force. The purpose of this Framework Directive is to protect water resources and water quality in Europe and mitigate the effects of floods and droughts. The Framework Directive requires member states to achieve good status for all watercourses. Drinking water companies, municipalities and citizens all have their role to play.
Drinking water companies
To enable Flanders to meet the requirements of the Water Framework Directive as well, the Flemish government decided at the end of 2004 that drinking water companies also have a decontamination obligation for their drinking water supplies. In other words, they must ensure that waste water is purified before being discharged. To enable it to meet this obligation, the Flemish drinking water sector entered into an agreement with Aquafin.
To ensure compliance with the requirements of the Framework Directive, the accelerated development of the municipal sewage system is essential. The Flemish government would like to see 95% of all homes being connected to the sewage system. To finance this operation, municipalities are allowed to add a special fee to the drinking water bill. To this end, the municipalities, or the intermunicipal sewer utilities of which they are members, concluded agreements with the drinking water companies.
Each citizen contributes to the sanitation of used water through the integrated water bill. The water bill includes both a sanitation fee and a discharge fee. The sanitation fee goes towards the construction and maintenance of collectors and water treatment plants. The discharge fee is invested in the municipal sewage network. The more drinking water is consumed, the higher the fee to be paid. This is a consistent application of the 'polluter pays' principle.