Not just energy bills: a fact-finding investigation is also needed for water tariffs

The governance of Integrated Water Service (SII) for about ten years now, it has foreseen the attribution of powers in the matter of tariff regulation to the Regulatory Authority for Energy, Networks and Environment (Arera).

The transfer of competences in this area took place at a time of particular attention of public opinion to the IIS, coinciding with the phase immediately following the performance of the popular referendum of 2011, relating to the assignment of local public services and the abolition of adequate remuneration of the invested capital from the cost items of the tariff.

The method of determining the rate, starting from 2012, it was able to record a progressive increase in the tariff load on users, which in a more or less homogeneous way affected most of the country. Against these tariff increases, the share of private investments that this tariff had to guarantee in order to solve the infrastructural problems of the water service remains absent, in particular as regards the problem relating to network losses, as well as to the segments relating to the treatment of wastewater.

It is no coincidence that Italy is subject to four infringement proceedings by the European Union for the failure to treat urban wastewater. Recently added to these procedures a fifth in the pre-litigation phase, relating to the monitoring of water quality, the designation of areas vulnerable to nitrates, which are also the cause, under certain conditions, of catastrophic environmental impacts on rivers, lakes and coastal waters as they favor eutrophication, up to the cancellation of life in that habitat with hecatombs of existing fish and plant species.

Starting from 2012, up to the Pacts for the South, with the Budget Laws 2019 and 2020 huge resources, in the order of 3 billion euros, have been allocated for financial interventions to eliminate the causes of infringement procedures. So once again the only investments are made by the Italians and the State, while private individuals collect the profits.

And today, with the National Plan for Recovery and Resilience (PNRR), 600 million euros are expected to be assigned to interventions in the sewage-purification sector and a total of 4.68 billion for the water system.

What is missing are the resources that private or mixed companies that manage water they have spent, or it would be better to say, they have not spent, on investment plans that the pricing should guarantee, also because the only possible remuneration for individuals would be on investments or for companies listed on the stock exchange, would be interest on shares.

Reading these data is not possible also because the procedure for determining the cost components is complex to say the least and in many cases intelligible to citizens. The level of transparency and access to information is likely to be totally hacked.

This is why the tariff methodologies adopted with a parliamentary fact-finding survey, also due to the babel of flexibility and discretion that local authorities use in favor of private and mixed managers. The Council of State recognizes this in sentence no. 5309 of 2021, asking the service manager for the approved basic planning as a prerequisite to be taken to justify the various tariff formulas, taking into account the need to verify the adequacy of management costs with respect to the planned objectives also “in relation to planned investments” ( Article 149 of Legislative Decree 152/06).

In this 2022 the issue of regulating the tariffs of bills cannot only invest energy ones, but must strongly touch those of an even more essential service which is that of water. For this reason, the M5S has been asking the President of the Environment Commission and all the other political forces for months to launch a parliamentary fact-finding investigation that finally clarifies and is a stimulus to bring solutions to the country.

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