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Venue: Sant Pau Art Nouveau Site
(Sant Antoni M. Claret, 167, Barcelona)
Conference room: Sala Francesc Cambó

Remunicipalisation and guidelines for management of the urban water cycle

In recent years there has been a steadily growing line of thought that understands that water should be managed as a common good. Major European cities have recovered the concessions and are developing new forms of water management. In Catalonia, the remunicipalisation of water is also an established trend, with numerous success stories and big cities also taking this path.

In parallel to this trend towards public management, new challenges have come to light that need to be incorporated transversally, such as the concept of water and sanitation as a human right recognized by the UN; the role of the community, transparency and accountability; the economic system guiding management; the good maintenance of large bodies of water and climate change; and the general regulation of the sector that incorporates these and other essential perspectives.

With the involvement of the major public managers from the State administration, Europe and the organized community, the conference “Water, a common good. Challenges and future” aims to take a step forward in the definition of the model of water management in the 21st century and serve as a platform to promote the legislative changes needed to make this possible.


9.30 am


Janet Sanz, deputy mayor and councillor of Ecology, Urbanism and Mobility,

Míriam Planas, spokesperson for Aigua és Vida ("Water is Life")

10.00 am


International perspective on pro-public and pro-private tendencies

Susan George, president of the Transnational Institute, Amsterdam, and honorary president of ATTAC-France (Association for Taxation of Financial Transaction to Aid Citizens)

Water as a human right. The experiences of Europe and Ireland. Opportunities for other countries.

Lynn Boylan, Sinn Féin MEP

11.30 am


12.00 am


Participation, transparency and accountability

The need to redefine the relationship between Public Administration and the community is becoming increasingly clear. Many voices are calling for the suppression of the traditional model of management of public services in favour of greater public involvement, which is more democratic and prevents malpractices. The new technologies offer enormous potential for exploration. Today, however, initiatives in this area are still unusual and cultural transformations and changes in scale have yet to be established

What are the principles and practical tools that will enable progress towards empowering, transparent and truly democratic water management?

Àlex Peñalver, senior lecturer in Administrative Law. Coordinator of the Environmental Law Clinic (Right to Rights) at the Faculty of Law of the University of Barcelona (UB)
Luis Babiano, director of AEOPAS
Juan Martínez, member of Terrassa Water Board
Violeta Cabello, member of the New Water Culture Foundation (FNCA, Fundación Nueva Cultura del Agua)


The water supply service is a basic responsibility of the municipalities that form part of its basic infrastructure. However, such local autonomy has not been accompanied by the support that provides local authorities with the tools needed to manage the service as effectively as possible. Concessions that take executive capacity away from the administrations, lack of global planning of the supply, zero support for processes of remunicipalisation, a legal framework greatly favouring economic interests, and the exclusion of the consideration of environment and climate change are some of the shortcomings that need to be tackled in maximum consensus with the community.

What new elements need to be incorporated by the water service understood as a common good? What aspects need reviewing and updating?

Joan Pinyol, director of the Department of the Environment of the Metropolitan Area of Barcelona (AMB)
Gabriel Borràs, biologist, Catalan Office for Climate Change
Joan Gaya, water engineering consultant
Salvador Milà, director of the President’s Office of the Barcelona Metropolitan Area (AMB)

2.00 pm

LUNCH BREAK (catering not provided)

4.00 pm



The human right to water and sanitation was recognized by the UN in 2010. Later, in 2015, the European Parliament adopted a resolution with the support of nearly two million people urging the European Commission and the member states to incorporate it into their legislation. The first country to do so, recently, was Slovenia. In turn, in Catalonia, we have a legal framework that a priori guarantees a great deal in terms of basic supplies, although energy poverty is still an extremely cruel social reality.

What does the consideration of water as a human right mean and what are the technical and legal implications?

Igor Soltes, member of the European Parliament
Maria Campuzano, spokesperson for the Alliance Against Energy Poverty
Alessandro Russo, vice-president of Aqua Publica Europea
Gonzalo Marín, spokesperson for Red Agua Pública (RAP)


Unlike other essential public services, the supply of water has historically been based on the principle of cost recovery – this is stated in the Water Framework Directive – and financial autonomy, with an important debate around investments. Instruments such as the concession tax opened the door to the numerous privatizations we have witnessed in the last two decades. For the user, the water bill emerges as a source of funding for actions outside the water cycle – with the format varying in different regions, which makes it more difficult to understand. Furthermore, it is not necessarily considered from the standpoint of social justice, redistribution or protection of the environment.

What economic framework should guide the provision of essential public services such as water?

Joaquín García Lucea, director of tax affairs at Zaragoza City Council
Cristina Barberà, member of Engineers Without Borders and author of the study DHAS i tarifes (“Human right to water and sanitation and water rates”)
José Manuel Jurado, head of sustainability at CCOO Catalunya and member of the Price Commission

6.00 pm

Presentation of the bases for management of the urban water cycle

Miriam Planas, Aigua és Vida
Gonzalo Marín, Red Agua Pública
Jaime Morel, AEOPAS

6.30 pm



The remunicipalisation of water is a global trend that has also reached Catalonia. The negative experience of the private management of water and the need to consider new ways of managing common goods – more democratic and direct, more sustainable approaches – has led many municipalities to recover water management, and many others are taking this path. The latest global figures speak of 235 cities with a total population of over 100 million people which have successfully undertaken the remunicipalisation of water.

Barcelona and other municipalities in the metropolitan area have positioned themselves recently in favour of public management. Elsewhere, Terrassa is in the process of remunicipalisation, as is Valladolid; and the cases of Brussels and Paris serve as points of reference for systems of water management that follow the logic of the common good.

What are the challenges facing these cities? What tools are needed to facilitate these processes?

Paris: Célia Blauel, deputy mayor
Brussels: Christiane Franck, general director of Vivaqua and CEO of Aqua Publica
Barcelona: Eloi Badia, councillor for Water and Energy
Valladolid: María Sánchez, deputy mayor
Terrassa: Alfredo Vega, deputy mayor