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What is the cost of the water information system?

Obtaining up-to-date information on the cost of the Water information system (WIS-FR) is a constant concern for both the National water committee and the Court of Auditors, that both wish to monitor WIS-FR costs and projects. A cost-monitoring system, designed to track the outlays of the main WIS-FR participants (Onema, Water agencies, research organisations, the State, etc.), was set up by Onema. The relevant costs, the contributing stakeholders and the corresponding projects were all identified. An initial assessment on expenditures between 2012 and 2014 for Onema alone revealed an average annual outlay of approximately 25 million euros. That includes all operating and investment costs, subsidies for partners and payroll costs required to produce, collect, store and disseminate water data. A total of 52 million elements of data were produced in 2014."


Water prices

As of 1 January 2013, prices amounted to 2.00 euros per cubic metre for drinking water and 1.85 euros per cubic metre for collective sanitation services, i.e. an average total price of 3.85 euros per cubic metre according to the report published in 2015 by the National observatory on public water and sanitation services. In that price, 22% consisted of taxes and fees, 39% of management expenses for drinking water and 39% of management expenses for collective sanitation services. The average water bill for households amounted to 38.5 euros per month and represented 1.3% of household income. Water bills can nonetheless have considerable impact on the budgets of financially vulnerable households. In this context, the recent Brottes law prohibited cutting the supply of water due to unpaid bills and set up an experimental system of “social prices” that local governments may choose to implement. Approximately 50 will propose “light” prices and/or financial aid to assist vulnerable households in paying water bills. The Ecology ministry, with support from Onema, will monitor the experiment for a three-year period.



Groundwater as an insurance policy and how to preserve it

French stakeholders involved in preserving groundwater as a source of drinking water held a meeting last 11 December near Paris. Organised jointly by BRGM and Onema, the meeting looked into the “insurance policy” role of groundwater provided as long as it has retained good quantitative and chemical status. Using detailed examples from France and Switzerland, the speakers outlined how preserved groundwater can serve as a backup for certain risks and threats to the distribution of drinking water (floods, accidental pollution, landslides, earthquakes, tsunamis, nuclear accidents, etc.) and assist in meeting new pressures on water resources (increased demand for water, chronic degradation of water quality, etc.). Information on this “insurance policy” should lead to enhanced efforts to preserve groundwater. A number of initial management lessons were drawn and research topics were suggested in order to overcome the difficulties encountered.

For more information, see


What does a fish pass cost?

In compliance with the new river-ranking system, between 8 000 and 12 000 structures on rivers (dams, weirs, locks, mills, etc.) must be equipped in the coming years with systems to assist fish in overcoming the obstacles. Information and advice on the various types of system and their sizing have been available, however cost data was still awaited. A study on 114 fish passes by the Onema/Irstea/Imft Ecohydraulic centre, in conjunction with the Ecogea consulting firm, analysed the costs involved in the design and construction of various types of fish passes, e.g. pool-type passes, rock-chute fish passes, passes for eels, bypass channels and pre-barrages. It presents statistics on costs and proposes indicators and models to estimate costs. One-half of the studied systems had total costs of between 46 000 and 320 000 euros (median cost 130 000 euros), which corresponds to 27 000 to 133 000 euros per metre of head drop. The costs depend on the characteristics of the hydraulic structure and of the fish pass. They can be expressed in various manners, e.g. total cost, cost per metre of head drop or per cubic metre of construction work.

For more information, see /sites/default/files/pdf/2015_008.pdf



What funding exists for water policy and biodiversity?

What budgets are devoted to water policy and to the preservation of biodiversity? Where does the money come from? To answer these questions, the Seine-Normandie water agency looked at the environmental accounts published each year by the Sustainable-development division of the Ecology ministry (CGDD). In 2012, expenditure for the human water cycle (production and distribution of drinking water, management of wastewater) amounted to 24 billion euros. That represented three-quarters of the overall budget for water policy, which also includes efforts against nonpoint-source pollution and erosion, and in favour of environmental preservation. In comparison, expenditure for biodiversity and landscapes (species management, land management, reduction of pressures, new knowledge, etc.) amounted to 2.2 billion euros. However, between 2000 and 2012, budgets for biodiversity, soil protection and efforts against nonpoint-source pollution increased between 5.5% and 7.4% per year. That increase is greater than increases for the human water cycle (2.4% per year) and greater than the overall increase for environmental protection (4.4% per year). Another interesting aspect is that whereas 70% of the budgets for the human water cycle are covered by companies and households* and 30% by public funds, for biodiversity and landscapes, 80% of budgets are covered by public funds, including towns and groups of towns (33%), public companies (17%), the State (16%), departmental councils (13%) and the Water agencies (8%). The EU, regional councils and households together cover barely 10% of the costs for biodiversity. *2012 data






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