Directive puts new price tag on water from 2013

Water will no longer be free anywhere in the country as of next year thanks to the enforcement of European Directive 2000/60/EC, stipulating that the price of water has to take into account the available reserves and the environmental costs of its utilization.

While the new measure will deal a blow to arid parts of the country that rely heavily on water supplies, the directive also means that the added cost of consumption will ultimately lead to better water conservation and management. The price of water, the directive says, will factor in the cost of labor used and infrastructure built for its recovery, the impact that the recovery has on the environment and the value of the resource itself. This means that the country will be split into different pricing zones depending on the climatic conditions and the availability of water, while the next step will be to construct a price list for different categories of consumers, such as industries, farms and households.

?The pricing of water is absolutely a social and political issue, which can only come after a broad discussion that draws on what other European countries have done and takes into account the particular circumstances and needs of consumers,? Andreas Andreadakis, the Environment Ministry?s outgoing expert on water, told Kathimerini.

?Whether we like it or not, water is not free,? he added. ?So far it has been paid for mostly by taxpayers. Now the consumer will have a greater say. On the other hand, we mustn?t forget that water is a public good, which should be available to everyone. Therefore, I believe that the decisions made by the state in regard to its pricing should be dictated by the fundamental principle that water is a public good and not a commodity.?

The changes to the pricing of water in Greece are expected to be introduced gradually within 2013, though it will be long overdue as precious time has already been lost in applying the directive, which was issued in 2000. This delay has already cost Greece one conviction at the European Court of Justice. Member states had until the end of 2009 to draw up, approve and post to the European Commission plans for managing all water sources. Greece missed the deadline and failed to draw up any of the 14 plans outlined by the directive.

However, the Environment Ministry?s Water Secretariat says that 10 of the 14 plans are currently in the pipeline and that the public dialogue on the new plans will be completed in the fall.