TALLINN – While in the last 20 years, water management in Estonia has been developed largely with the help of European Union subsidies, then according to Kaupo Laanerand, deputy secretary general of the Ministry of Climate for maritime affairs and the marine environment, we will have to cope independently in the future.
The water service steering group that met on Thursday is looking for a solution to ensure high-quality public water supply and sewage service at a reasonable price even after the end of EU subsidies.
"In two years, it must be clear to us in which way to reorganize the Estonian water management sector," the deputy secretary general said.
Investments of over one billion euros are needed in the next 10 years alone, as aging pipelines and cleaning equipment need to be replaced and information technologies need to be developed. In addition, the need for investments will increase in the coming years due to stricter environmental requirements, which will help to further reduce pollution reaching water bodies.
Karin Kroon, head of the water department at the Ministry of Climate, said that a large part of the approximately 150 water companies there currently are in Estonia are microenterprises, which are not able to make the necessary investments and provide qualified labor for the maintenance of automated equipment at a reasonable price for water service.
"In order for public water supply and sewerage to work smoothly in Estonia and to be affordable for people in the future, small water companies must think about joining, as recommended by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)," Kroon said, adding that according to a study conducted in 2018, up to four water companies could effectively manage and provide affordable and high-quality service in Estonia.
The task of the steering group formed in June is to prepare a national water service strategy by the fall of 2025 by involving local governments and water companies.
The steering group includes representatives of the Ministry of Climate, the Competition Authority, the Ministry of Social Affairs, the Ministry of Finance, the Environmental Investment Center, the Health Board, the Estonian Waterworks Association, the Association of Estonian Cities and Municipalities, the Estonian Society of Water Supply and Sewerage Engineers and the Estonian Owners Association.
Helping the steering group to prepare a strategic road map is a water reform consultant found through an international tender, which is a consortium consisting of Civitta Eesti, Keskkonnalahendused, Powerhouse, Triniti and international experts. The work is financed from the Structural Reform Support Program (SRSP) of the European Union.