ACTION LAB: VESTER HJERK, DENMARK

Exploring the potential of a common water fund

The Municipality of Skive, partner in the WaterProtect project, is exploring the interest to set up a common Water Fund among the 24 water works supplying the drinking water in the Municipality.

The overall goal is to support the groundwater protection and to maintain the decentralized water supply structure that makes water extraction less vulnerable to pollution and overutilization of the resource.

More specifically, the aim is to ensure funding of measures needed to protect the groundwater resource induced by public plans and regulation. The idea is to set up a Water Fund that can manage the legal and economic aspects of protection of the drinking water resource through agreements on land use and land management.

Financially, the Water Fund will be funded by adding a component on water protection to the price of the water payed by the consumers. Over the last year, the administration of the Municipality successfully arranged several smaller or bigger meeting for all or for neighbouring groups of water works.

Currently, the interest in the Water Fund ranges from water works that initially want to participate, to water works that do not want to participate. Several water works think it is a difficult or even impossible task to lift - in terms of both finances and professionalism.

Several water works also find the Water Fund difficult to relate to, as the meetings were held relatively early in the process of establishing the water fund and there is no specific draft agreement. Currently, the administration of the Municipality is waiting for a political decision on how to proceed based on the lesson learned.  The recommendation from the administration is that they continue to establish a Water Fund together with the water works wishing to enter into the cooperation on a voluntary basis.

The water work of Vester Hjerk, the Danish Action Lab, is one of the 24 water works located in the Municipality of Skive. Vester Hjerk is one of the 23 smaller and consumer owned water works, while the municipality owns the last water work, supplying three quarters of the drinking water.

Whereas the company owned by the municipality, also managing the wastewater in the entire municipality, has 38 employees, the smaller water works rely entirely on voluntary work. There might have been an expectation that the large water work owned by the Municipality would act as a coordinator in the Fund. However, this is one of the water works that do not want to participate in the Water Fund.

So, what is the expected outcome for a Water Fund in Skive Municipality? The municipality can actually force the water works to join the Water Fund according to the legislation on the supply of drinking water. However, as mentioned above this is not seen as a good approach. A more likely scenario might be that smaller groups of neighboring water works, including Vester Hjerk water works, choose to collaborate.