Water utility prices in Brussels are set to rise 14.5%, a considerable price hike that critics argue will put the most vulnerable households in danger of water poverty, in spite of regional efforts to prevent this.
From April 2023, the region's water utility company Vivaqua will increase tap water tariffs by 14.5% to compensate for rising operational costs relating to maintenance, inflation, energy and material prices, as well as works to improve ageing infrastructure. The calculated cost for a two-people household will be an extra €43 for annual water bills; families with children could see their costs rise by €80.
"It is unreasonable for consumers to bear these costs. Vivaqua has been in financial difficulty for a long time and now the people of Brussels are being presented with the bill!" said Hilde Sabbe, MP for socialist party one.brussels-Vooruit.
This year's price rise will likely be followed by another 4% increase in 2024 and a 2% increase both in 2025 and 2026. One.brussels stressed the precarity that many Brussels residents already face and fear that this will exacerbate existing water poverty.
Drowning in bills
In 2019, close to one in five Brussels residents indicated that they lived in a situation of water poverty and lack sufficient access to water to meet basic needs, despite spending a significant portion of their budget on water bills.
The Brussels government announced in February that it would increase the social allowance for households with a BVT (Beneficiary of an Increased Allowance) status. This also entitles them to an increased allowance for medical and health care expenses and applies to some 160,000 households.
"It is essential to guarantee access to quality water for everyone in Brussels: private individuals, including the most disadvantaged, but also commercial and non-profit companies," Alain Maron, Minister of Water, said at the time.
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However, Sabbe argued that many people with BVT status do not know they are entitled to the increased allowance and therefore do not claim it. "So the measures taken for them are often meaningless." In response she said that the allowance should be granted automatically.
"Access to clean water is essential and a basic right for all Brussels residents. That principle is now coming under severe pressure. Many Brussels residents are already struggling to keep their heads above water. Don't let them drown."