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Aqualia, integrated water management global partnerships to preserve the local environment

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Developing social action programs and mechanisms to guarantee universal access to water within a sustainability framework is part of the challenges set by several of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In the case of Aqualia, the contribution to these goals is materialized through direct environmental and social collaboration initiatives in the communities where it provides services.

Integrated water cycle management companies have been working eagerly to achieve the SDGs since the 2030 Agenda was set out. As a full member of the Global Compact, Aqualia promotes and integrates the Ten Principles of the United Nations Global Compact into its corporate culture and is aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals, developing and taking part in projects and actions that contribute to achieving them.

International sustainable initiative

These projects include two initiatives developed in close collaboration with the NGOs SEO Birdlife in Medina del Campo (Valladolid, Spain) and Trianon in Ostrava (Czech Republic). Both projects have been selected by the Australian ethical fund IFM from among dozens of projects submitted to the Community Grants Program, which it organizes on a global scale among its portfolio companies, including Aqualia.

IFM Investors' grants help investee companies collaborate with community organizations on projects with environmental and social benefits

IFM Investors' Community Grants Program aims to support social or environmental initiatives carried out by non-profit organizations/NGOs closely linked to IFM's portfolio companies, such as Aqualia in Spain. These grants seek to support the growth of local communities through environmental and social collaborations. The beneficiary projects must meet the following eligibility criteria to qualify for one of the grants: aim to make communities more inclusive, safe, resilient and/or sustainable; expect identifiable and measurable social and/or environmental outcomes; and be aligned with the corporate strategy and objectives of the company submitting the proposal.

The grant amount is up to 40,000 Australian dollars per project (or local currency equivalent - about 25,000 euros) and is awarded directly to the non-profit organization/NGO with which the company is collaborating on the grant project.

In 2019, IFM Investors ran a pilot program of these grants among its Australian investee companies and, following its success, in 2020 it was extended to all the companies in which it invests globally.

Restoration of the Medina del Campo Wetland (Valladolid)

In 2020, the IFM Investors Community Grants Program awarded through Aqualia a grant to the bird conservation organization SEO Birdlife, to support restoration work in the Medina del Campo Wetland, located in the area of the overflow of the Zapardiel River (Valladolid, Spain). The project aims to improve biodiversity and protect the local fauna through the enhancement of the wetland site. It will also create an environmental education centre for schoolchildren to help disseminate environmental information about the project in the area.

The little gull, garganey and whiskered tern are just three of the approximately 120 bird species found in the aquatic habitat and surrounding area of a water treatment wetland system in the Spanish town of Medina del Campo. While some species live there permanently, others use it as a stopover site during their annual migration.

Restoring the wetland system in Medina del Campo supports the sustainable treatment of wastewater and helps protect biodiversity

With the help of funds from IFM's Community Grants program, Aqualia, in partnership with SEO Birdlife, will continue to work on the restoration of the wetland ecosystem that already began in 2008 when its wastewater treatment plant next to the wetland system started operations. Aqualia had observed that the treatment ponds had become a recurring stopover location for birds during migration.

Instead of replacing the old wastewater filtration system, the company chose to protect and maintain it, and launched a sustainable water treatment and reuse project that has increased biodiversity, water quality and water level stability in the wetland ecosystem.

The construction of nests on the water surface and in the vegetation surrounding the wetlands has helped create conditions that attract an increasing number of bird species. Each year, SEO Birdlife conducts a census of the bird population and the species diversity in the wetland system. Populations have increased since the project began and, at last count, the annual population amounted to approximately 8,600 individuals. Since November 2020, five new species have been recorded in the area, including the Savi's warbler, in what was the first sighting of this species in the province in five years.

Lauren Owens, Senior Associate, Responsible Investment and Grants Program Administrator at IFM Investors, describes IFM Investors’ Infrastructure Community Grants Program.

​Czech association Trianon has received a commercial vehicle that will help further develop its social entrepreneurship programs

An important part of the project involves the creation of an environmental education centre for local schoolchildren that aims to increase environmental awareness and understanding. Cameras have been installed in the wetlands to make virtual tours possible until in-person tours are possible, subject to Covid-19 restrictions.

For Aqualia, caring for the environment is an intrinsic part of daily integrated water cycle management. The partnership with SEO Birdlife to restore the wetland system supports the sustainable treatment of wastewater and, at the same time, helps to increase and protect the biodiversity of this local ecosystem.

Inclusive employment in the Czech Republic

Thanks to the Community Grants Program of IFM for its investee companies, the Czech association Trianon received a commercial vehicle adapted for people with disabilities that will help the NGO continue its social entrepreneurship programs in the field of circular economy.

The consolidated collaboration with SmVaK, Aqualia's Czech subsidiary that operates in the Moravia-Silesia region and the border regions of Poland, has helped the social and environmental organization to apply for this grant program and obtain it.

In addition to these projects driven by the collaboration with Aqualia, the 2020 Community Grants Program has helped fund nine projects around the world, and hopes to continue to support more through the 2021 program.