nikoleta.cvetkova @ Professor Arsov, are you familiar with the strategy for the water sector drawn up by the Ministry of Environment and Water (MWE) and Ministry of Regional Development and Public Works (MRDPW). And how would you comment on it?
- About a month ago, the Bulgarian Water Association (BWA) sent a formal letter to the Environment Ministry requesting the already drawn up strategic document in order to express its point of view on it. The Ministry answered us informally that the strategy is still being coordinated and developed. Afterwards, MEW's statements delivered via the media informed us that the Ministry welcomes the participation of environmental NGOs in the development of the document. There is nothing bad in this initiative but they are environmentalists, while the strategy concerns mainly water management via the appropriate engineering infrastructure systems and facilities. This implies the involvement of hydro engineers since they are experts in this field, whereas the majority of them are BWA members. Unfortunately, the BWA proposal was rejected. There are some individual BWA representatives, who participated in its development but, as independent experts. Nevertheless, we obtained an extended summary of the strategy from unofficial but completely reliable sources. Therefore, I can comment on it in general as an expert but without formally engaging the Bulgarian Water Association.
The set-up interdepartmental working group is dealing with the coordination, follow-up and final outlining of the strategy. There are representatives of various central departments involved in the water management process and water infrastructure. For years, the management is following this model. Now, there are rumours about an integrated body which will merge all these units. This concept is set also in the strategy which is being drawn up. The final deadline for the completion and official submission of the strategy is the end of October this year.- What are the options for the water sector management and is there a change envisaged in the management of the Water Supply and Sewerage (WSS) companies?
- In many areas, the management of water companies is mixed because there is no sole ownership but a state and municipal ownership. In fact, it is a matter of strategy as to who will manage the company. The operating version provides for three options. The first refers to the maintenance of the status quo, while the second pertains to the strengthening of public accountability and the third envisages for the state to withdraw utterly from the management of WSS companies. The adoption of a second version is also being proposed - it will strengthen state control. We have good traditions, in spite of all. The sector urgently needs reorganisation in order to meet modern conditions.- Besides, the problems concerning WSS companies, what are the other drawbacks in the water sector?
- The irrigation system across our country (irrigation and drainage channels), with a few exceptions, has broken down. The main part of dikes and other flood protection facilities have not been repaired for years. Furthermore, as a result of climatic changes over the last 30 years, the hydrological picture of our geographic region has changed. There are long periods of drought, but torrential rains also became more frequent. Problems also arise from the outdated or incomplete data for water farm systems. The water management strategy also envisages significant institutional changes in the irrigation sector, providing a joint management with a view to more effective control and operativeness on the part of the state and districts. Besides, more adequate management over flood protection systems is being envisaged.
However, the irrigation systems across our country is well structured and traditionally well-managed. In fact, the entire hydropower potential of Bulgaria has not yet been utilised, which is also the main task for the development of this sector.- According to your data, there is a 62% loss during water transmission. What does it result from, how can it be reduced and how much resources are needed to tackle this?
- These total losses are caused not only by leaks but also by the unauthorised water use such as water theft and uncollected taxes. However, the share of water loss during water transmission is the largest. In order to reduce it, the water supply system must be in a very good technical condition. Bulgaria's water supply networks were constructed more than 40 years ago, while during most of this period, no maintenance was provided.
For the first time in the last three decades, the water management strategy contains financial estimates of the total investments required for the entire water sector. It considered three main scenarios involving pessimistic, realistic and optimistic ones depending on the expected climatic and hydrological conditions, based on the predictions of the amount of anticipated water resources in the next 25 years.
According to the optimistic scenario, the minimum expenditures required for the rehabilitation and development of WSS' infrastructure come to €12.4 bn., while a few years ago costs were estimated at about €8 bn. According to pessimistic expectations, the funds necessary for the branch could reach €43 bn. Probably, the required financial resources could come to about € 21 bn, according to the realistic scenario. The water supply alone will require €3 bn or €9 bn

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