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Chantal Jouanno,
junior minister for ecology


Interview of Chantal Jouanno,

Junior minister for ecology

With Jean-Louis Borloo, your senior minister, you recently signed the first goals contract with Onema for the period 2009 to 2012. In your opinion, what are the issues surrounding this fundamental contract for the agency?

The goals contract for a public agency constitutes the road map and general direction set by the State for the agency over the years to come. Its importance is enhanced by the fact that Onema was founded relatively recently. After only two years of existence, we can say that the challenge has been met. I regularly meet with people from the water field, in both the public and private sectors, and they all expect a great deal from Onema.
The demands placed on the agency are growing and that is proof that it is seen as an important player. For us, the agency is above all the national technical organisation in charge of reclaiming the good ecological status of water and aquatic environments. The goals contract lays out in writing the commitment by Onema to implementing the many obligations contained in the Grenelle environmental agreements.
A further purpose of the contract is to maintain the new impetus provided by Onema for water research. It confirms the central role of the agency in setting up and developing the water information system which will serve as an example in Europe. It also makes clear that the policing activities of Onema complement the efforts of the Water agencies to encourage a return to the good status of water. Finally, it reinforces the agency's role in assisting the overseas river basins. In short, the goals contract is a major challenge, but I am sure we can count on everyone at Onema to meet that challenge.

On signing the goals contact, you announced a national action plan to restore the ecological continuity of rivers by 2015. What role would you like to see Onema play in its implementation?

The plan is very important because hydromorphological considerations are one of the reasons why good ecological status is not reached in half of all water bodies. Onema will play a major role in its implementation. The agency is currently finishing an inventory of weirs and dams on rivers and there are over 60 000. Onema will then assess how each obstacle is used and its impact on ecological continuity. With its partners in the river basins, the agency will set up a programme of priority restoration efforts, targeting first and foremost the elimination of obstacles that no longer serve any clear purpose.
Policing activities will complement contractual efforts. Finally, Onema will monitor the most outstanding operations and disseminate good practices. It will also keep track of the results of this very ambitious plan.

At the annual conference of French mayors on 18 November, you presented the national observatory for water and sanitation services. What do you expect from the observatory?

The necessary characteristics of water services are transparency, quality and humanity. Consumers are correct in demanding that the State and local governments provide impeccable services. Many aspects of the system set up in the 1990s following the Sapin Law and the required annual report on the price and quality of services can be improved. The May 2007 decree makes it mandatory for each water and sanitation service to report annually on service characteristics and performance indicators. Over the past two years, Onema and the local State services have inventoried the various water services and there are over 35 000, almost as many as there are towns and villages in France!
The observatory launched by Onema is a defining project and we want to make it a useful tool for local governments. They will be able to compare their service with equivalent services and monitor performance levels over time. Consumers and citizens in general will also have access to the data. Onema will progressively establish analysis techniques to better understand the links between prices and the related performance levels.
Consequently, mayors will benefit by sending the data on their water services to Onema. If everyone does their part, over the next two years, 80% of the French population will have on-line access to the data on their water and sanitation services.


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