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Document 52023IE1665

Opinion of the European Economic and Social Committee on ‘Access to water: tackling water poverty and its implications for social policy’ (own-initiative opinion)

EESC 2023/01665

OJ C 349, 29.9.2023, p. 60–68 (BG, ES, CS, DA, DE, ET, EL, EN, FR, GA, HR, IT, LV, LT, HU, MT, NL, PL, PT, RO, SK, SL, FI, SV)



Official Journal of the European Union

C 349/60

Opinion of the European Economic and Social Committee on ‘Access to water: tackling water poverty and its implications for social policy’

(own-initiative opinion)

(2023/C 349/10)


Kinga JOÓ and Carlos Manuel TRINDADE

Plenary Assembly decision


Legal basis

Rule 52(2) of the Rules of Procedure


Own-initiative opinion

Section responsible

Employment, Social Affairs and Citizenship

Adopted in section


Adopted at plenary


Plenary session No


Outcome of vote



1.   Conclusions and recommendations


The EESC fully endorses the United Nations resolutions affirming that water is a basic human right (1) and that it is fundamental to the enjoyment of life and all human rights (2). The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in Goal 6, and the European Pillar of Social Rights (EPSR) of the European Union, in principle 20, establish the general principles of the right of access to water. In a scenario of climate change, water poverty takes on greater importance and requires public policies to combat it. In a situation of water scarcity, it is the vulnerable population that is more affected.


The EESC calls on the European Commission and the Member States to apply a human rights-based approach to all water policies, and to address water poverty, thereby also aligning with the EPSR. Water and sanitation services (WSS) should be sustainable, equitable, effective, of high quality and affordable for all, and should pay special attention to vulnerable social groups.


The EESC believes that universal access to drinking water and sanitation of high quality at fair prices for the population should be treated as a public good and not merely a commodity, which is why it should not be managed according to the rules of the single market.


The EESC calls on the Commission to promote a common approach to understanding water poverty at EU level and develop a comprehensive definition of water poverty that allows for a tangible and shared understanding of water poverty (3), and within which each Member State can develop its own context-dependent definition, in accordance with the European one.


The EESC calls on the Commission to develop common guidelines to monitor access to quality and affordable WSS (4) and their spatial, social and gender disparities at Member State and EU level, as well as to map the state of play and regularly monitor developments. Data should be reliable, valid and publicly available. This is also necessary in order to comply with Article 16(a) of Directive (EU) 2020/2184 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 December 2020 on the quality of water intended for human consumption (5) (called hereafter the Drinking Water Directive (DWD)), and the EESC expects that the European Commission proposal for the Recast of the Urban Wastewater Treatment Directive (UWWTD) (6), introducing an Article 19 on Access to Sanitation, will be adopted.


The EESC proposes to the Commission that the forthcoming review of the DWD should include the guarantee of universal access to WSS, as set out in UN SDG 6. The EESC advises the Commission to adopt common guidelines for the pricing of water and sanitation, within which the Member States can develop their context-dependent regulatory frameworks. Such guidelines should respect the human right to water and the principle of non-degradation, similar to that recommended by the UN on human rights and access to drinking water and sanitation.


The EESC emphasises that paying for WSS services should not compromise the fulfilment of other social needs. Therefore, the EESC calls on the Commission to make an overview of measures applied in all Member States concerning affordability and specifically on vulnerable consumers. On the basis of this overview, we call on the Commission to develop common guidelines for Member States to identify households with affordability problems, and more specifically vulnerable consumers, and measures to address them. Such guidelines should ensure that no users in a situation of vulnerability have their water supply disconnected (7). Measures should be based on a holistic view of affected households’ situations and should apply social policy instruments, housing policy measures, and specific measures concerning WSS services in a context-specific manner. The principle of solidarity should be taken into account in financing such measures; in addition to public funding, innovative forms of funding should be explored, e.g. establishing dedicated funds incorporated in water bills.


The EESC recommends that the EU adopt and strengthen regulatory frameworks on water concession agreements to manage water as a public good rather than as a commodity that can be traded. Such regulatory frameworks should:


be aligned with human rights;


promote sustainability of aquatic ecosystems;


be established and implemented in a transparent manner with public participation;


complement the framework of concession rights with public institutions to recover water use rights in exchange for fair compensation and reallocate them during drought crises to users in emergency situations.


The EESC notes that there is a fundamental difference between public and private water management and good and bad examples can be found in both. However, private management, due to its focus on profit, may have difficulty meeting the fundamental requirement of universality of service, i.e. serving 100 % of the population. The EESC believes that public water management is in a better position to guarantee universal access to water and sewage systems at a fair price and with adequate quality standards and the restoration and protection of ecosystems.


The EESC believes that the EU and all Member States should adopt an environmental vision and develop programmes to fund water distributors to achieve a reduction of leaks and losses, one of the greatest scourges of water resource management. The EESC calls on the Commission and the Member States to consider and support new and innovative technical solutions to tackle water scarcity, such as increased use of grey water and treated wastewater, and decentralised, small-scale waste water treatment facilities.


The EESC calls on the Commission and the Member States to provide public funding for infrastructure development, with specific regard to resource-poor property owners and socially deprived urban and rural neighbourhoods with prolonged infrastructure renovation needs. Development of water and sanitation infrastructure related to the Renovation Wave should be considered. Furthermore, in spatial planning, environmentally, economically and socially sustainable provision of WSS services should be considered.


Carefully noting the existence of numerous river basins in Europe that involve multiple Member States, the EESC advises the adoption of a political and technical governance framework and the participation of civil society for each of the existing basins in the EU (see points 6.4 and 6.5). The EESC suggests that the Commission assess the performance of river basin management and introduce political, technical and participatory mechanisms to improve it. The Commission should introduce a River Basin Council that represents all stakeholders as a body to assist the River Basin Authority and give itself a role as mediator in transboundary conflicts.


The EESC recommends that the Commission:

regulate super-water-intensive agricultural and industrial projects in relation to downstream environmental and social problems and, in some cases, develop a phase-out stage for these projects, finding solutions for the businesses, workers and territories involved, and allocating the necessary funds to achieve a balance in the solution found;

develop legislation to ensure a minimum flow that reaches the sea;

ensure that the EU adopts emergency plans prioritising access to water for human consumption in a scarcity crisis.


The EESC suggests that the EU draw up policies to protect consumers, ensuring that everyone has access to safe drinking water at a fair price and to adequate sewage systems. These policies should include the participation of the various stakeholders concerned (consumers, workers, businesses) in consultation bodies.


The EESC calls on the Commission and Member States to take measures to improve the awareness of EU residents on the value of water, the importance of access to water and sanitation for all. The potential of communication and education to raise awareness should be utilised to promote more sustainable use of WSS services (8). Children and young people should be targeted as key actors in sustainable use of WSS services in the future, however, awareness raising should encompass all age groups. In the case of households in water poverty, awareness raising should be integrated into other measures to improve households’ access to quality and affordable WSS.


The EESC emphasises that the EU’s and the Member States’ water policies should be accompanied by systematic surveys of the personnel requirements in the water sector including the necessary qualifications, workforce development, and occupational health and safety management. These should be carried out together with the social partners in the sector.

2.   Introduction and scope of the opinion


Water is fundamental to all aspects of life. It is also a key part of sustainable development and is essential for the peace of our civilization. Climate change has already exacerbated water-related problems, and it will continue to do so on an even larger scale in the future. Inadequate freshwater supplies are putting an increasing strain on human communities, especially vulnerable groups.


In 2010 (9), the UN General Assembly explicitly recognised the human right to water and sanitation, reinforced by the 2023 UN Water Conference (10). The UN also acknowledges that clean drinking water and sanitation are essential to the realisation of all human rights. The 17 internationally agreed SDGs of the UN include Goal 6 — ‘Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all’. Alongside these global commitments, principle 20 of the European Pillar of Social Rights states that ‘everyone has the right to access essential services of good quality, including water and sanitation’.


The EU has established a comprehensive legal and governance framework to ensure the sustainable management of its water resources, and has made progress in implementing it (11) (12). Previous EESC opinions advocate linking challenges associated with water to measures to tackle poverty and the goal of eradicating it (13), promoting the provision of water and sanitation as vital public services for all (14), and facilitating access to drinking water for vulnerable groups and people living in isolated locations and in disadvantaged or peripheral rural areas (15).


This own-initiative opinion draws attention to the current challenges concerning access to clean water and sanitation. It also explores measures to be taken at European, national and local level and the role of organised civil society in tackling water poverty and its effects, notably on the most vulnerable. Finally, it examines ways to mitigate the social, political and economic effects of water poverty and its impact on human health.


Water poverty is present in the EU, despite the EU’s relatively favourable position in global terms. Lack of access to good quality and affordable water and sanitation, a situation which can be described as water poverty, is an everyday experience for millions of EU citizens. In other words, millions of Europeans are denied the right to access affordable and good quality water and sanitation.


However, water poverty has far-reaching social, economic and environmental consequences, including health risks at the individual and community level, decreased employability, and the deterioration of the local economy, social exclusion, environmental pollution, movements/migration of population, and political instability. Such consequences are vastly disproportionate to households’ share of water use and wastewater production compared to industry and agriculture. This is reflected in the fact that the first successful European Citizens’ Initiative concerned access to water and sanitation, demanding guaranteed WSS services for all in the EU, human rights above market interests in water provision and increased EU efforts to ensure universal access to water and sanitation (16). Addressing water poverty is necessary in order to achieve the political priorities of the EC, with specific regard to the Green Deal and its promise to leave no one behind.


The DWD establishes an obligation for Member States to take all measures necessary to ensure access to drinking water for vulnerable and marginalised groups. However, it fails to recognise the universal right of access to safe drinking water and sanitation, as included in the SDGs. The EESC calls on the EC to include this recognition in the next revision of the DWD.


The EESC notes with regret that the available data are limited and fragmented, which makes obtaining a comprehensive overview of the scale and characteristics of the phenomenon difficult.

3.   Access to quality water and sanitation


2,2 % of the EU population, approximately 9,8 million people, do not use safely managed drinking water from an improved source, accessible on their premises (17). A further 2 %, approximately 9,4 million people, can only access basic drinking water services outside their premises (18). Approximately 450 000 people resident in the EU (19) do not have access to even basic drinking water services. 6,7 million people in the EU, 1,5 % of the population, live without sanitary facilities, that is to say in a household with neither a bath, a shower or an indoor flushing toilet, while 84,5 million people, 19 % of the population, live without access to at least secondary wastewater treatment (20).


Water poverty particularly affects vulnerable individuals and households.

Households in poverty are more than three times likely to live without sanitary facilities (21).

Lack of access to water, sanitation and hygiene (‘WASH’) has a disproportionate impact on women in multiple ways, for example due to their disproportionate role in performing household chores, and due to issues associated with menstrual hygiene management.

Children are disproportionately affected, being more prone to the consequences of poor hygiene.

People living with a disability or specific needs also experience increased exposure to the consequences of water poverty.

Homeless people, especially rough sleepers, are severely hit by the lack of WASH, due to their extreme housing poverty.

Europe’s largest ethnic minority, Roma people, are highly affected by a lack of access to safe and affordable drinking water and sanitation. Every third Roma person lives in housing without tap water (22), and just over a half have an indoor flushing toilet or a shower (23). There are examples of marginalised communities, in which Roma are overrepresented, being denied even basic drinking services, through public taps being closed down (24), and living in areas impacted by groundwater contamination due to economic activities (25).

Migrants, especially undocumented migrants in emergency accommodation and informal accommodation can be especially exposed to poor access to WSS.

Lack of access to affordable water and sanitation can impact vulnerable households’ family businesses, creating social and economic problems.


Spatial disparities in water and sanitation infrastructure are an important — though not the only — factor in socially disparate access. In many areas, infrastructural problems and social problems intersect. Marginalised rural communities may be in an especially disadvantaged situation. In addition, in resource-poor neighbourhoods with prolonged renovation needs, poor quality infrastructure contributes to water poverty and environmental problems.


Meanwhile, demographic changes affect the spatial distribution of demand for WSS services. Urbanisation increases pressure on WSS services in many densely populated urban areas. In other parts of the EU, especially — but not exclusively — rural areas, population decrease poses challenges to the operation of networks.


While the aforementioned problems with lack of access to WSS primarily affect social groups, a much higher proportion of the EU population — 30 % on average — is affected by some form of water stress, i.e. a mismatch between the demand and supply of water (26). People in southern Europe face severe water stress problems throughout the year. In other parts of Europe, water shortages occur occasionally and in specific hotspots. In total, 8 million people in Europe live in areas of high drought frequency or water stress (27). Climate change is projected to cause a further seasonal reduction in water availability in most parts of Europe.


Moreover, by altering hydrological cycles, altering rainfall patterns, and increasing temperatures, climate change is a major factor affecting water stress, and has a direct impact on WASH in multiple ways. Droughts, temperature increase and even extreme rainfall reduce water availability and quality, and damage infrastructure, leading to difficulties in maintaining hygiene and sanitation behaviours. Sea-level rise may reduce the availability of drinking water due to flooding and saline intrusion. Evidence specifically for Europe is scarce; however, based on global trends it can be reasonably assumed that climate change has disproportionate effects on vulnerable individuals, households and communities (28).


The amount of water used by households changes considerably depending on the Member State, varying between 77 to 220 litres per capita per day (29). In eastern Member States, consumption tends to be lower than in western Member States, with some southern Member States being the largest consumers; however, there are outliers (30).


Though the quality of water in the EU is generally good, quality problems persist in some areas, as shown by the non-compliance cases launched against some Member States based on the DWD. In addition, lack of access to safely managed drinking water, especially basic water services, does carry a high risk of unsafe drinking water use.


Satisfaction with drinking water quality is generally high, though not universal. Survey data from the mid-2010s shows that 82 % of EU residents considered the quality of drinking water in the area where they live to be good (31), with approximately 7 % disagreeing. The general assessment of drinking water in the EU was much less favourable, with just 27 % agreeing with the statement there is good access to wholesome and clean water in the EU overall.


While the overwhelming majority of EU residents use tap water for washing, personal hygiene and cooking, the proportion of people using tap water for drinking is somewhat lower. In the mid-2010s, over 90 % reported using tap water for cooking, while only 55 % said they always use tap water for drinking directly, with an additional 10 % always drinking tap water after filtering it.


Over recent decades, water has gone through a process of commodification and WSS services have undergone a process of privatisation and financialisation. In more recent years, these processes have been called into question and there are already examples of municipalities that have taken water services back. Water is essential to life, a common good, and a human right. In this context, the EESC believes that, as services of public interest, WSS services should be subject to a clear regulation guaranteeing service obligations, in order to ensure that water and wastewater management are universally achieved at an affordable price and with sufficient quality of service. The Commission should maintain exemptions for water and wastewater in the Concessions Directive (2014/23/EU) (32) granted as a result of the successful European Citizens’ Initiative on the ‘Right2Water’. The EESC recommends that the Commission exempt water services from the rules of the single market.

4.   Affordability


The affordability of WSS services is a growing concern for EU residents — among other reasons, due to the recent energy price increase — and expenditure for these services is expected to increase. Though, generally speaking, WSS costs do not pose an excessive burden on households, they often do so for low-income households, and the number of households affected is likely to increase. Using a 3 % threshold, in 13 EU countries the poorest 5 % of the population faces affordability problems for WSS, and in some countries even the lowest 10 % of the population are affected (33). Meanwhile, such an approach to measuring affordability problems may be debated, may be difficult to measure, and may not indicate the full scale of the problem in that it fails to take into account households that under-consume, differences in water pricing (34), and the relative income situation of households.


The price of WSS shows a high degree of spatial disparity between and within countries (35), and, due to the lack of detailed statistics, no comprehensive overview can be made. However, distribution systems in rural areas are characterised by longer networks and higher operation costs, leading to higher tariffs.


In addition to lower income, vulnerable households may be more prone to issues of affordability due to poorer quality, less efficient equipment, and more time spent at home. Marginalised women, children and young people, as well as unemployed people, are disproportionately affected.


While prevailing affordability problems call for targeted and effective social measures, at present no comprehensive view can be obtained on EU Member States’ measures to address affordability problems, including measures concerning vulnerable consumers. In addition, no comprehensive view is available on the possibility — or lack thereof — of service discontinuation, and on minimal service. However, partial information is available for some countries (36), which shows a variety of such measures to address issues of affordability.


The WFD has deepened the concept of the polluter-pays principle through the objective of full cost recovery to guarantee the health of ecosystems. However, the application of this principle clashes with the principle of universal access to high-quality drinking water at affordable prices and in practice produces serious social consequences, in particular an increase in inequalities, since the poorest populations either face proportionally higher tariffs or are not subject to the principle set out above. The EESC believes that the principle of universal access to high-quality drinking water at affordable prices should be fundamental and considered along with the environmental concerns that are behind the polluter-pays and full cost recovery principles.


In order to comply with the human right to water, the protection of ecosystems, and social concerns, the water tariff structure is an important lever for affordability, efficiency, equity and water conservation. For that multiple purpose, there exist various tariff structures, including that of the Special Rapporteur (37) on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation at the 76th UN General Assembly (38).

5.   Sustainability


In the framework of this opinion, we do not look at environmental problems such as saline intrusion or pollution, which may ultimately be responsible for social problems. The focus is on the human activities leading to overexploitation and causing conflicts of use. The most well-known similar problem is when one’s own use of water prevents the use of another party. EU and national legislation try to deal with this through river basin management (39), which has seen varying levels of implementation and achievement throughout Europe.


Overexploitation gives rise to an increase in scarcity and degradation of water quality and the quality of service. However, degradation of water quality also increases scarcity, not in a lack of the amount of water itself, but by decreasing the amount of water suitable for any purpose or at least increasing the funds needed to bring that water back to acceptable standards. To address the problem of overexploitation, we should focus on the causes instead of the consequences, which were discussed in the previous point. Overexploitation cause environmental problems, which are responsible for social problems, since human activities depend on ecosystems, particularly healthy ones.


A particular problem is emerging, namely the development of super-intensive agricultural and industrial projects in areas that are poor in water, whereby these projects are only possible with the transfer of water from other basins and by the overexploitation of surface waters, leading to environmental and social problems downstream. For instance, the overexploitation of a river leads to a decrease in sediments and nutrients reaching the sea, increasing the degradation of coastal areas and reducing fish stocks. On the whole, overexploitation leads to the depletion of ecosystems, which most affects the most vulnerable populations.


Social problems arise from the decrease in fisheries and, potentially, from a decrease in tourism on the seashore. While we can mitigate coastal degradation problems to sustain tourism through large investments, the same cannot be said for fish stocks. On the other hand, if the EU legislates in order to cease the projects responsible for overexploitation, it will have to face the unemployment of the workers involved.


Leaks and losses (40) do not involve overexploitation, but constitute an inefficient and unacceptable use of water. However, this is an issue that requires a unique vision. When it comes to leaks and losses, the main vision of distributors of water for human consumption is an economic one (41). Leaks and losses are tackled to the point where it is more expensive to continue tackling them than to live with them. Typically, that point is around 15 % of leaks and losses (42). Another vision is possible and, nowadays, with scarcity rising, such a vision is also much needed to go beyond 15 %.

6.   Governance


The EESC notes that worldwide water distribution and sanitation are a municipal competence, with different types of distributors (companies or municipal services) serving one or more municipalities, as well as the fact that in the European Union and around the world the overwhelming majority of people are served by public water companies. In addition to the different forms that water distributors can take, there is one key distinction: public and private management. Under each one of them, we can find different types of management. We can also find good and bad examples of both public and private management. Nonetheless, private management, with its focus on profit, may have difficulties meeting the requirements of service universality, a dimension that public service is in a better position to achieve efficiently at an affordable price and with sufficient quality of service. The EESC notes that this conclusion is supported by the examples of remunicipalisation of WSS in the last two decades.


To ensure quality of service, affordability and universal services, the participation of all stakeholders, at management level and in regulatory bodies, is the best means of keeping water distribution and sanitation on track to comply with SDG 6 in a scenario of growing scarcity and increasing prices. At water distributor level, there is a success story in Córdoba, where the municipal company EMACSA has a shared board involving stakeholders, being an example of participatory management (43). The regulatory bodies, instead of being headed by a single person, should have a board that involves stakeholders, in order to assure more effective regulation.


International rivers and water bodies can be a source of tensions and ultimately conflicts between states, even inside the EU. The EESC considers and proposes that the EU should become involved in the segment of river basin governance in which several Member States are involved, defining general principles, tangible objectives and qualified monitoring, as the best way to contribute to water management in times of scarcity, which provoke crises of various kinds.


Currently, the water governance model (dispersion and lack of hierarchical supervisory bodies and bureaucratic opacity) is inefficient. There is an urgent need to find a new model of governance for hydraulic ecosystems, particularly those involving several Member States. There are numerous authorities in the water sector with responsibilities at different steps of the water cycle, with conflicting visions and objectives and, sometimes, with overlapping responsibilities. The EESC proposes to the Commission that there should be a river basin governance framework with political and technical bodies at river-basin level to ensure, with maximum efficiency, general political guidance and technical management, as well as the involvement of all stakeholders through effective participation mechanisms.


In particular, the EESC proposes a governance model that is both political and technical, democratic and open, geared towards putting into practice the principle of universal access to quality drinking water at affordable prices for the public. The EESC proposes that there should be ‘governance committees’ made up of members from all of the countries concerned, with the task of providing political management and resolving any conflicts of interest between countries. These river basin governance committees should be assisted by a technical committee of experts and provide the technical management of the river basins. The ‘governance committee’ should publicly and rigorously establish the hierarchy of responsibilities between itself and the various entities that exist in the countries involved in the river basin so that there are no incompatibilities and no confusion regarding responsibilities. A ‘consultative council’ should operate alongside the river basin governance committee. This council will be made up of civil society organisations, in particular environmental, climatic and consumer organisations and the social partners, and will have the role of having a structured civil dialogue with the ‘governance committee’ and help resolve possible conflicts of interest.

Brussels, 13 July 2023.

The President of the European Economic and Social Committee

Oliver RÖPKE



(3)  Opinion of the European Economic and Social Committee on Tackling energy poverty and the EU's resilience: challenges from an economic and social perspective (exploratory opinion requested by the Czech Presidency) (OJ C 486, 21.12.2022, p. 88).

(4)  Complementing the monitoring set in the Drinking Water Directive (Directive (EU) 2020/2184).

(5)   OJ L 435, 23.12.2020, p. 1. ‘Identify people without access, or with limited access, to water intended for human consumption, including vulnerable and marginalised groups, and reasons for such lack of access’,

(6)  Proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council concerning urban wastewater treatment COM(2022) 541 final, 2022/0345 (COD).

(7)  See also:

(8)  As also emphasised, among other things, in the messages and policy recommendations of the 2016 Budapest Water Summit ( and the Budapest Appeal of the 2019 Water Summit (

(9)  Resolution 64/292: The human right to water and sanitation (2010),


(11)  Recast of the Drinking Water Directive (2018).

(12)  Proposal for a revision of the Urban Wastewater Treatment Directive (2022).

(13)  Opinion of the European Economic and Social Committee on ‘Integration of water policy into other EU policies’ (exploratory opinion at the request of the Hungarian presidency) (OJ C 248, 25.8.2011, p. 43).

(14)  Opinion of the European Economic and Social Committee on the Communication from the Commission on the European Citizens’ Initiative Water and sanitation are a human right! Water is a public good, not a commodity! (COM(2014) 177 final) (own-initiative opinion) (OJ C 12, 15.1.2015, p. 33).

(15)  Opinion of the European Economic and Social Committee on the ‘Proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on the quality of water intended for human consumption (recast)’ (COM(2017) 753 final — 2017/0332(COD)) (OJ C 367, 10.10.2018, p. 107).


(17) (reference year: 2020). The percentage of people not using drinking water from an improved source that is accessible on the premises, available when needed and free from faecal and priority chemical contamination. Improved water sources include piped water, boreholes or tubewells, protected dug wells, protected springs, and packaged or delivered water.

(18) (reference year: 2020). This indicator encompasses both people using basic water services as well as those using safely managed water services. Basic drinking water services are defined as drinking water from an improved source, provided collection time is not more than 30 minutes for a round trip. Improved water sources include piped water, boreholes or tubewells, protected dug wells, protected springs, and packaged or delivered water.

(19)  Eurostat,

(20)  Eurostat,







(27)  First hearing on ‘Time for a Blue Deal’, 27 February 2023.


(29)  Eureau, The governance of water services in Europe, 2020



(32)  Directive 2014/23/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 February 2014 on the award of concession contracts (OJ L 94, 28.3.2014, p. 1).





(37)  His proposition is a stepped tariff, whereby the first step should be affordable, and even free in certain circumstances, complying with the human right to water; a second step should be a cost recovery tariff; and the third step with much higher prices, generating a cross-subsidy from luxury to basic uses and preventing overexploitation. The EECS considers that the definition of the values of each step should be defined by every Member State or even by every WSS.

(38)   ‘Risks and impacts of the commodification and financialisation of water on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation’, Report presented to the 76th UN General Assembly by the Special Rapporteur on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation, Pedro Arrojo Agudo, A/76/159.

(39)  Directive 2000/60/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 October 2000 establishing a framework for Community action in the field of water policy (OJ L 327, 22.12.2000, p. 1) (Water Framework Directive).

(40)  On the whole, leaks and losses refer to water physically lost and water not billed, keeping in mind that some of the water not billed is however authorised. For more detail, please consult a hydric balance.

(41)  For this paragraph, in the case of losses we are not referring to non-billed authorised consumption.

(42)  This is the typical goal value in use in Portugal. Other EU countries can have different target values, but the value itself has no relevance to the development of our idea.

(43)  Enrique Ortega de Miguel and Andrés Sanz Mulas, ‘Water Management in Córdoba (Spain): A Participative, efficient and Effective Public Model’ in Reclaiming Public Water, TNI ed., 2005.