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Wasteful consumption of drinking water may become more expensive

Wasteful consumption of drinking water may become more expensive. Water managers are investigating whether higher prices can help to encourage companies and consumers to use water more sparingly and increase awareness.

Madelon Vink of the Dutch Association of Drinking Water Companies (Vewin) confirms that “a different kind of pricing, combined with more information and water-saving techniques, can contribute to more economical water consumption and greater awareness among customers”. In mid-September, the first results will be published of a study commissioned by the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management and carried out by Berenschot on ways of stimulating more conscious and sustainable water consumption.

The study may take a look at Belgium, where consumers pay a basic price for the amount an average household needs per person, and a so-called comfort price for anything above that. The comfort price is double the basic price. In this way, water remains available as a basic necessity, but extra charges must be paid for excessive use, such as watering the garden extensively or filling a large swimming pool.

Taxation of industrial water use is also on the table in a follow-up study. In the Netherlands, drinking water is cheaper than in Flanders. There, 1000 litres of drinking water costs about 4.30 euros, in the Netherlands 1.91 euros. The latter includes 0.35 cent tax on tap water. Companies that use a lot of water are still exempt from this tax.

Vewin emphasises that water companies can currently meet their supply obligation. But we do anticipate that we will be facing major challenges in a few years’ time, says Vink. To be able to continue supplying sufficient drinking water tomorrow, a transition is really needed in which the business community, the government, consumers and the water companies themselves will have to contribute.

Retaining available water better, identifying and protecting new sources, taking better account of drinking water supplies in housing construction – there is a lot to be done, according to Vewin. And thus also a different view on water consumption: Consumption and hygiene demand the highest quality, but some applications of drinking water do not demand this highest quality. It is important to encourage conscious use of drinking water. Everyone can make a contribution.

Erik Driessen, a water expert who has long argued that the Dutch should know much more about water, calls the Belgian model ‘charming’, but believes first and foremost in tackling industrial water use. In surrounding countries, companies are already working hard on reusing water, but in the Netherlands this is still hardly the case”, he says. If something is not expensive, there is no reason to save on it”. He also pleads for much better information about water use.