Drought in the context of climate change has become a critical issue. To avoid reaching the rationing of drinking water, countries such as Spain, Portugal, Greece and Malta have implemented water charging systems that consider water scarcity.
One of the European experts on the subject is Montserrat Termes, a professor at the School of Water at the University of Barcelona and who participated in the seminar “Water: Adaptation to climate change” at the Libertad y Desarrollo study center, where she referred to the water rate model applied in Barcelona.
Termes says that in order to face the drought that affected Barcelona 25 years ago, they implemented a model of “increasing block rates”, where the price of the resource per cubic meter increases as the volume consumed increases, based on a fixed rate.
Montserrat Termes, academic at the U. of Barcelona
He explains that the rates start in a first block which is priced low enough so that no one is excluded from the service. The second block begins to cover costs and average consumption, and from the following levels -from the third to the fifth, in the case of Barcelona-, they are directed towards those who spend more water and can pay more, and with non-essential consumption.
“This system is the one that best reflects a sustainable rate in a scenario of water scarcity,” says Termes.
He comments that with these measures they have managed to reduce per capita consumption. “The idea is always present that if I consume too much, my bill will go up. There is no waste of resources here”.
Regarding replicating this initiative in Chile, Termes says that “by analyzing all the information, of course it is possible to apply it. There could be problems due to resistance to change, but, at this point, there is no other option but to make major changes”.
The consumption bill that reaches users differentiates between clean water, sewerage and served. This, since rates are established that, depending on the type of housing and the level of consumption of water from the supply, must be paid for solid waste management. In some municipalities in Catalonia, a fee is used to cover the cost of maintaining the sewerage network.
“In addition to the drinking water service, they apply another fee for sewage and sewage. Despite the fact that there are different bodies that regulate this, everything is charged on the same bill”, says Termes.
In the same account, the Water Canon is also established, a tribute that is destined to the investment and exploitation of sanitation systems, reservoirs and other infrastructures for the production and transport of water in Catalonia.
The expert maintains that, in Barcelona, “some activities do not need to be done with drinking water, such as washing cars, cleaning streets, watering gardens. All of this is done with reused water.”