The quality of drinking water available to consumers in Bulgaria, Hungary and Romania has improved in recent years thanks to EU funding, but significant investments are still needed, according to a report from the European Court of Auditors.
The auditors examined EU action on drinking water quality in the three countries, the audit covering the period from the Member States’ accession to the end of 2016.
However, although the report found that the quality of water has improved in the three countries, the auditors point out that there are still areas where water from the public network does not fully comply with the 1998 EU Drinking Water Directive. Moreover, significant further national public and private investment will be needed to provide access to good quality water for all the inhabitants of Romania, Bulgaria and Hungary, and to ensure that EU-funded investments can be adequately maintained.
“Financial support from the EU budget to these water networks has been substantial, but it should not replace expenditure by the member states,” said George Pufan, the member of the European Court of Auditors responsible for the report. “Overall, these three countries will have to invest more than EUR 6 billion by the end of 2020 to cover their needs.”
Between 2007 and 2020, the European Regional Development Fund and Cohesion Fund support for the management and supply of drinking water in Bulgaria, Hungary and Romania will total EUR 3.7 billion.
The auditors recommend the three countries to require, as part of the selection criteria for water facility projects that contribute to national targets, the inclusion of plans to reduce water losses, to ensure that tariffs provide for sustainable infrastructure and, if necessary, to provide financial or other forms of support to households for whom water costs are above the affordability rate.
Irina Marica, [email protected]