Elected in Oullins and vice-president of the metropolis in charge of water and sanitation issues, Anne Grosperrin is at the center of a decision that caused controversy in the opposition: the return to public water management potable, effective in 2023.
Anne Grosperrin. Photo credit: Eric Soudan – Alpaca productions.
Last Monday, the metropolitan council has adopted the return to a public water authority. What are the social implications of such a decision?
It is a paradigm shift in water management. Today, water is a commodified resource, we sell it. We draw it in a predatory way on a planetary scale. But our countries are not immune to this kind of problem. We really wish, by this passage in control, to affirm that water is not a commodity but a common good vital for all living things. And governance is the only management method that allows us to manage this resource in the general interest, without favoring private interests.
The social interest is that we regain control of the entire water cycle. There are issues of tension on the resource, we will not be spared in France by the scarcity of water resources. We have pluviometric deficits, groundwater recharge problems, low water flow reductions… According to the water agency’s models, based on work by the IPCC, the forecasts for the Rhône, it is -30% of the flow by 2050. It is in 30 years, it is tomorrow what! It’s huge, a third of the flow of the river.
On this issue of flow, for example, what can public water management provide in concrete terms?
It helps to protect the resource and to diversify it. The operation and management of a public water service really requires know-how, cutting-edge technologies and complex processes. That, a delegatee is able to do to us. The problem is that this control is not integrated into the management and the public heritage when it must be mobilized in contexts of tension on the resource. As a community, we have a major responsibility and we find ourselves dependent on private interests! This dispossesses the community of sovereignty over these decisions. These democratic elements are very important: a public body is the integration of users in the management of the resource. This is not possible in a public service delegation. If we want to forge a collective water culture, if we want citizens to be no more than consumers but adopt the behavior of users associated with the definition of public policies, everyone must be able to participate in the management of water. ‘water.
One of the other reasons that made us choose the switch to a government-controlled system is the social and environmental pricing of water.
How does it work?
There are different models, but we haven’t done this work yet. We will do this in a second phase, from 2021. During the campaign, we offered the track of the first free cubic meters. For everyone. Between three and seven cubic meters per year, which corresponds to drinking water, feed water in fact. From there, there is a whole reflection to be carried out on the different levels of water use. The idea is rather to favor small consumers, consumers who save resources, and to tax overconsumption. I am thinking, for example, of people who fill swimming pools: it is a use that is not essential.
The opposition questions the contributions of a public authority in terms of efficiency, and denounces an “ideological” measure and the lack of evaluative study proving its benefits. For your part, you seem rather to highlight the “paradigm shift” in the relationship with the resource …
But also efficiency! We want to have a high level management from this point of view. When I hear criticism from the opposition, I hear implicitly calling into question the capacity of the public service to assume this responsibility. However, in addition to Paris, which fought a strong battle for water, other large communities have done so with real conviction firmly in the body, and of all political stripes.
Christian Estrosi in Nice, for example…
Of course ! There is Estrosi, and we cannot call Estrosi a leftist (laughs)! The metropolis of Nice has done a real job on public management. We are in contact with them, moreover, we discuss regularly because they have an interesting experience. Moreover, Estrosi defends the public service on other aspects, they have other rules on other types of service. The transition to public governance is not an ideological question, it is really a question of political courage. These are fallacious arguments. When the opposition says that, it defends the private model at all costs and it demolishes the public model. I sincerely find it irresponsible that local elected officials themselves doubt the ability of the public service to do quality work. The metropolis of Lyon has very good skills in the water sector, there are services that are very specialized, very competent. Today, they follow the delegation of public services very closely since we have around a hundred indicators for assessing the DSP. These agents and those of Veolia, together, are quite capable of providing a super efficient service.
Does public management have more concrete benefits for users? In terms of price, water quality …
The quality of water is one of the objectives defined by the UN ten years ago: to provide everyone with quality drinking water. We will not make any concessions on that.
For citizens, there is participation in savings in the use of the resource. In the decades to come, there is a risk of being forced to arbitrate the uses of the resource, to set priorities. Among the users there are citizens, industrialists, businesses, farmers etc. So there are trade-offs to be made, since there are sometimes uses that are potentially rival or contradictory. It is therefore important to be able to involve them in the reflection and not to impose uses in a non-negotiated manner.
The water consumed is the same throughout the metropolis?
In Quincieux, Lissieu and Tour-de-Salvagny, it is operated by the Sieva, a union from which we buy water. It is also a public agency. In the rest of the city of Lyon, drinking water comes from more than 90% of Crépieux-Charmy catchment field : it is water that comes from the alluvial groundwater of the Rhône, so it is naturally filtered by the river bed. It is water that comes from glaciers. There are many municipalities or communities that are obliged to treat their water through treatment plants before distributing it. This is not our case, we only put chlorine in it.
Are there water pollution problems in Lyon?
Progress has been made on macropollutants, nitrates, etc. But we still have a lot of progress to make on micropollutants. And it is a very sensitive subject in public opinion. Micropollutants are drugs, hydrocarbons, microplastics… We still have a lot of chlorinated derivatives, industry derivatives or nitrate-type pollutants linked to agriculture. Although we have very good quality water, work must be done to reduce pollution at the source. That is to say, working in the territories with industrialists and farmers, to reduce the use of these polluting products.
It’s going to be complicated, right?
It’s long-term work. But I will take the example of Greater Besançon for example: the metropolis has done very interesting work with manufacturers. That is to say that large companies now have systems that allow them to recycle water internally, and treat it internally, so as not to discharge polluted water into the natural environment.
Latest articles by Maxime Pechkechian (see everything)