The Water Coalition, the new nationwide coalition organized by the CCF, launched its Clean Water into our Glasses! campaign.
They took all the problems that the Coalition was formed to, and launched a petition:
The idea of doing something to improve the drinking water supply started in Vecsés — and several NGOs from settlements around Budapest joined in. Two years ago, the Eleven Vecsés group tested the drinking water with the help of community funding — according to the opening discussion at the conference, where the organizations that joined the network were introduced. In Vecsés, the iron and manganese content of drinking water is consistently above the health limit, which in addition to being a health risk also causes economic damage: it ruins water heaters, washing machines and clothes. There are broken and damaged pipes almost daily in the municipality — the number has tripled in the last three years. The reason for all this is the lack of reconstruction — the pipes are in terrible condition. Speakers from different municipalities all mentioned frequent burst pipes as a problem and as a result the disruption in the drinking water supplies.
Not the workers and not the service providers are responsible for burst pipes, as the professionals repeatedly said at the conference.
“The network becomes a sieve because there has been no money for reconstruction since the cuts in 2012,” pointed out Károly Kecskés, President of the Employees’ Trade Union of the Budapest Waterworks ZRT. In addition, drinking water has 27% VAT, so it is a luxury good, even though it is basic! Since 2013, the sector has also been hit by a utility tax, which is only reinvested in the 5 state-owned companies and does not benefit municipal and private suppliers. Under these conditions, service providers cannot invest, they can only put out fires.”
Due to the lack of reconstruction, a significant proportion of the healthy drinking water extracted is lost to the ground, because of the deterioration and corrosion of pipes and fittings in asbestos-cement pipelines which are typically 50–60 years old. Water losses of 30–40% are not uncommon — in the fact that there are still some areas without piped drinking water, this is a huge waste.
A major problem for service providers is that they cannot raise salaries, so there is no replacement for the professional workers, many of them already doing the job on a casual basis. By 2027, 25 percent of workers are expected to be absent, which will bring further supply problems — experts told at the conference.
The experts’ proposal — to reduce the VAT with no change in consumer prices, the transfer of utility taxes to a development fund and a national program for pipe replacement — are among the petition’s demands.
“We have seen from the local problems the systemic problems” pointed out Andrea Homoki, CCF community organizer and one of the coordinators of the Water Coalition. She has been working for two years to unite the coalition: “And we are looking for systemic solutions. Bringing together the public and service providers now offers a real opportunity to do this.”