In a country like France, the challenge of providing access to water is not one of connecting people to the supply network. Instead, the challenge is to make sure everyone has permanent access to water. In this situation, feedback from Veolia Water's experience has led to the following observations:
- Social tariffs are a partial response to the need for solidarity, but they cover only direct customers of public water services
- Assistance measures should be available to all users of public water services, whether or not they are direct customers. The only practical and economically viable solution is to make access to the public service individual through remote meter reading, the rollout of which should be speeded up.
- Solutions to alleviate the water bill (by writing off the debt) or payment of the bill (through a staggered payment schedule) meet only a part of the demand for local solidarity. This need is not only financial; there is also a need to listen to what people have to say and to provide them with support.
- Solidarity cannot be implemented in a uniform manner at the national level. To be effective, it has to be implemented locally at the initiative of local government authorities so that the level of difficulties faced by water service users can be taken into account along with the type of housing (individual homes or apartment blocks), as well as the views of local networks of non-profit organizations and associations.
Taking these observations as its starting point, Veolia Water has built a solidarity program that can be adapted to meet the individual needs of each local government authority. With its subsidiary m2ocity, the water division of Veolia Environnement intends to facilitate the rollout of remote meter reading so that individual access to the public water service can be speeded up.
The "Water for All" program
The "Water for All" program enables each government authority to provide its own local solidarity program to all users of the water service. It comes in addition to social or equitable tariffs and combines three types of assistance:
- emergency solutions to maintain access to water service by offering different forms of financial assistance appropriate to the individual situation: a payment schedule, debt write-off or water vouchers;
- assistance solutions to help manage budgets and water consumption over the long term;
- prevention solutions to alert people to unusual over-consumption.
The program is designed to be adaptable to the real needs of each area in consultation with local social services and non-profit organizations.
Veolia Water works with community social action centers, the national union of PIMMS Multiservice Mediation and Information Points and their regional branches, and also with non-profits such as the Uni-cités Les Médiaterre project, under which young people engaged in a civic service program work to raise awareness of environmental issues in low-income households, and the local branches of the Agir Contre l'Exclusion (Action against exclusion) Foundation.
In 2011, Veolia Water's "Water for All" program consisted of:
- 190,000 payment schedules put in place
- 22,000 debt write-offs
- over 2 million euros spent on emergency aid via France's Housing Solidarity Funds and the allocation of water vouchers (or personalized aid vouchers).
The effectiveness and usefulness of the "Water for All" program is assessed locally and training is given to customer care agents who are the direct link with people requiring help.
Veolia Environnement's seven training centers in France provide these courses, which focus on listening to people and on mediation skills.
A different approach that calls on the responsibility of all the various actors
The Veolia Water approach is based on the shared responsibility of the water service's various stakeholders: the local government authority, the service operator and the service user. This approach enables everyone to exercise their rights and fulfill their duties:
- the right to assistance and equality for users of the public water service and the duty to manage their consumption properly;
- the duty of the operator to provide information and effective solutions;
- the duty of the local government authority to combat exclusion.
Veolia Water, the water division of Veolia Environnement, is the world leader in water and wastewater services. Specialized in outsourcing services for municipal authorities, as well as industrial and service companies, it is also one of the world's major designers of technological solutions and constructor of facilities needed in water and wastewater services. With 96,651 employees in 69 countries, Veolia Water provides water service to 103 million people and wastewater service to 73 million. Its 2011 revenue amounted to € 12.617 billion.
Veolia Environnement (Paris Euronext: VIE and NYSE: VE) is the worldwide reference in environmental solutions. With more than 330,000 employees the company has operations all around the world and provides tailored solutions to meet the needs of municipal and industrial customers in four complementary segments: water management, waste management, energy management and passenger transportation. Veolia Environnement recorded revenue of €29,6 billion* in 2011.
* Excluding VeoliaTransdev revenues currently under divestment
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