New water code allows
companies to run utilities
Establishes water police,

national water authority

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Parliament has ratified a new code that allows the private sector to build and run public water utilities.

Public utilities for potable water, wastewater, and irrigation can now be run through Build-Operate-Transfer or Design-Build-Operate-Transfer contracts that have a maximum period of 30 years.

Law 77, the new Water Code, establishes a ‘water registry’, an inventory of all water input and output, which will be updated periodically by the Ministry of Energy and Water.

It also calls for the development of a national water authority under the Presidency of Council of Ministers. The authority will be chaired by the Prime Minister and members of the Ministers of Energy and Water, Environment, Industry, Agriculture, Health, and Tourism. Chairpersons of water establishments are also part of the authority.

The authority will play a consultative role in establishing national policy for water projects, guidelines, and reports about work progress.

The water tariff will remain flat in areas where metering tariffs are inapplicable.

The law sets out guidelines for the establishment of a ‘water police’ that monitors violations, protects resources, and keeps factories and companies in check.

“The law is revolutionary but it needs lawmakers that follow up with the issuance of its executive decrees, because plenty are needed,” said Bassam Jaber, former consultant at the Ministry of Energy and Water.

Jaber said that one of the disadvantages of the law is that "according to the admitted economic principle: 'water should pay water', it is not acceptable to have three independent accounts for potable water, wastewater and irrigation in the same budget."

He said: "This situation does not comply with the Budget Unicity concept only, but knowing that wastewater and irrigation will stay in deficit for many years to come, long administrative procedures will be needed to transfer funds from potable water to cover this deficit."

Law 77 was put together in 2005 with the help of French experts, but its ratification was put off several times since, for political reasons.
Reported by Yassmine Alieh
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Date Posted: Jun 11, 2018