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Dutch water utility considers price hike for heavy water users

  • Dutch water utility considers price hike for heavy water users

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Vitens, a Dutch publicly owned water company serving nearly 6 million customers in several provinces, is considering an increase in water prices for heavy water users, reports De Telegraaf. Thus, consumers may have to pay more for water if they often water their garden in the summer or fill a large swimming pool.

For a long time, the principal challenge in the Netherlands was to drain away excess water, however, the Netherlands is now becoming drier due to climate change. The water system in the country was designed to drain water away as quickly as possible, but now it is important to retain water better in wet periods.

In its annual report, Vitens recognized that meeting the demand for drinking water at peak times is an ever greater challenge to the security of supply, and has prioritized campaigns to reduce drinking water demand and making advice available to consumers and business customers.

Consumers may have to pay more for water if they often water their garden in the summer or fill a large swimming pool

Vitens’ primary source for drinking water is groundwater from about 100 water extraction sites. But Vitens and other water utilities are facing limits on how much water they can extract, while demand is going up – water consumption increased by 10 per cent in the past five years for Vitens. Despite wanting to produce more water, regulatory restrictions from provincial authorities are making it difficult. Provinces hardly issue permits to expand water extraction, an issue which can stop housing construction, as warned by the Environment and Transport Inspection. The Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management has responded that a plan will be introduced before the summer to address the problem.

To address water shortages, Vitens is thinking about ways to encourage people to use water more wisely, including raising prices for non-essential water use. "We are looking into how we can make so-called comfort use more expensive, such as watering the garden in the summer or filling the pool in nice weather. For households, we want to establish a basic rate for water used for cooking, drinking, showering, and flushing the toilet. The amount of water associated with these activities will be standard; anything consumed beyond that will be more expensive," said spokesperson Rik Dogger of Vitens. It is still unclear how much more expensive non-essential water use might become as the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management is still studying the options. Approximately 80% of Vitens’ water supplies go to households and 20% to businesses. Businesses will also face higher charges for water use exceeding standard levels. In the past year, Vitens had to turn down businesses’ requests for drinking water connections.

Using other sources of water is also being considered. "We use water deep in the ground. We are also considering the use of surface water. In any case, that is more expensive because more purification is required. The water we pump up now requires very little treatment to make it suitable for drinking water", said Dogger. According to the ministry, it is crucial to take steps to produce more drinking water: "Whether extraction from surface water is a good idea depends on the situation."

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