Low tariffs, growing but still insufficient investments, municipal management that still characterize Southern Italy. Because we invest too little in water. WATCH THE VIDEO
In Italy almost half of the water (precisely 42.2 percent) is dispersed before reaching its destination, in our homes or factories or even in the fields to be irrigated. The reason lies in the very little investment that our country has so far dedicated to the water network.
According to an analysis by the previous government contained in the 2022 Economic and Financial Document, in Italy 12.4 billion euros would be needed to bring the water network up to European standards. For now, the appropriations provide for 4.7 billion of planned investments for the next few years. Everything else is still to be financed. A good part of the funds comes from the Pnrr, which provides for 2.9 billion investments in the water network to be used by 2026. There is then further money that comes from React Eu funds, and other national allocations.
And even if we manage to spend all this money over the next five years, the Italian average would still be behind France (6 billion euros), Germany (7.5) and the United Kingdom (9) in terms of investments in the water network.
Water, low bills in Italy
So who can put the money that is missing? The Italian rates paid by end users are among the lowest in Europe. According to the numbers provided by Utilitalia in the latest Blue Book report, a cubic meter of water in Milan, Naples and Rome costs less than the rest of Europe, especially when looking at the bills paid in London, Paris, Vienna and Berlin.
Municipalities manage water for 8 million people
It could therefore be the operators who invest the funds necessary to redevelop the Italian water network. But there are still critical issues on this front. Particularly in southern Italy, in fact, the operators remain largely municipal, therefore too small to plan investments and exploit the economies of scale of the network. There are a total of 1,519 municipal managers, of which over 1,200 in the South, providing services to just under 8 million people. In the rest of Italy, on the other hand, the so-called industrial managers, companies that operate in the sector and cover around 47 million customers, manage aqueducts, sewers and purifiers. However, most of them are companies owned by local authorities, but of larger dimensions.
The same Pnrr foresees among its reforms the push for aggregations in the sector, through the assignment to integrated water managers within the territorial ambits. In some of these however, particularly in Campania and Sicily, this process has not yet ended. As Utilitalia comments, in these regions the “subjects who do not operate by virtue of an assignment compliant with the current or pro tempore legislation in force” prevail.
Small is not beautiful
This figure is essential to push investments. In fact, industrial operators have a decidedly higher spending capacity: their investments reached over 56 euros per inhabitant in 2021, growing over the last few years; for municipalities, on the other hand, these values - according to estimates – are less than 10 euros.