The dispersal of water in water networks: an Italian emergency

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Spreco acqua nella rete idrica

When it comes to water and sustainability, there are many things to consider: picking and reusing, pollution and purification. If the use of water is a necessity in the civil, industrial and agricultural fields, there are rules that protect the water resource to be respected. But there is also a large grey area to intervene on: that of water waste. And let’s not talk here about what we can do at the individual level in a direct and indirect way, a serious problem that can only be solved by the spread of a real water culture. We are talking about concrete and tangible waste that requires equally objective interventions: the dispersion of water networks.

How much water we waste

Italy tops Europe in the dismal ranking of water waste. It is a simple but disarming calculation: water is taken for 428 liters per day, but about 220 litres are consumed. Where does the water that is missing from the appeal end? Nearly half (47.9%) are dispersed from distribution networks. This important loss of water resources further exacerbates the general situation of water shortages mainly due to drought.

According to ISTAT in the latest report on the state of the water in Italy, 10.4% of households complain of irregularities in the supply of water. But the overall percentage is to be analyzed on the territory: in the South and in the Islands there are greater problems and higher the number of households dissatisfied with the water supply. This is reflected in the analysis of confidence in water quality: higher in the North, low in the South. And there were 11 capitals in 2017 – almost all of them in the South – that had to live with water rationing.

An old water network

The main problem lies in the state of the network that distributes water in our country, from sources of supply to house taps. The pipes are old, cutlery decades ago (a 25% even is 50 years old). It has been estimated that it takes 5 billion a year to renew water networks in line with modern standards, including as a use of materials. In fact, they spend a lot less, and at this rate it would take 250 years to make the water network efficient. The UN, for its part, sets water protection as a key goal of sustainable development. And Europe does not fail to sanction us, as for the failure to comply with European rules on the adaptation of sewers and sewage treatment plants, with multimillion-dollar fines.

Water management in Italy

It would therefore require radical renewal and constant maintenance, and the problem seems to be the costs in relation to the current management system. The Italian management scene in Italy is diverse, entirely public or mixed public-private, to a decidedly minorityly entirely private one. A complex situation, often at the heart of the political debate.
A study by the CERRE – Centre on Regulation in Europe argues that the problem is not in the system, whether public or private, but in regulation that stimulates the correct investment: the presence of an independent body, both from the public and private, seems to be productive in this regard, as evidenced by the experience of many OECD countries.

What can we do then? As citizens and entrepreneurs we can demand quality water, managed responsibly, avoiding senseless waste. Not forgetting to exercise it we first exercise that responsibility, day by day. Our future is at the fore.