During this workshop a study regarding environmental and health-related indicators in the benchmarking of water suppliers conducted on behalf of the German Federal Environment Agency (UBA) was presented. Its results were discussed with experts from practice, policy and administration. The minutes of the workshop are available for download.
The impulse for the study [pdf, 1.6 MB, German] conducted for the German Federal Environment Agency (UBA) by Ecologic Institute in cooperation with Rödl & Partner GbR and the Hochschule Ruhr West was, on the one hand, the ongoing discussion on water prices in Germany and, on the other hand, the decision of the German Federal Court of Justice from 2 February 2010 which asserted that the competition law fully applies to water suppliers. The Court’s decision will see drinking water providers forced to provide a justification for excessive water prices and create new pressures on this group to reduce costs.
At the same time, there is consensus among environmental policy makers, at federal and state level, as well as within the water industry that this increased cost pressure should not come at the expense of pre-emptive measures to protect water bodies and human health. On the contrary, environmental policies seek to secure pre-emptive measures as part of the water services tasks and to increase the importance of these measures in the context of rate regulation.
Since the adoption of the 2002 Bundestag resolution “Sustainable water management in Germany”, benchmarking has become one of the most important instruments for the modernization of the German water services sector. The presented study therefore investigated if benchmarking is adequate to make pre-emptive measures to protect water bodies and human health more visible and to assess those measures with appropriate indicators. Moreover the study addressed under which conditions benchmarking results could be used in the process of rate control.
The workshop was held in the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU) in Berlin as part of the project. The main results are outlined in the following presentations.
R. Andreas Kraemer and Marlene Lange from Ecologic Institute summarized the results regarding the importance ascribed to the actions taken by water providers to ensure the protection of water bodies and human health within current benchmarking approaches and new indicators to improve the representation of these actions.
Mark Oelmann from the Hochschule Ruhr West compared the centralized regulation of the water sector in England and Wales and explained risks related to measures for the protection of water bodies and human health in the context of a centralized economic regulation.
Finally, Jörg Schielein from Rödl & Partner GbR summarized the possibilities to use benchmarking approaches in the process of rate control as well as strategies in creating a transparent presentation of the actions taken to ensure the protection of water bodies and human health.
Following the presentation of the results plenty of time remained for an extensive and wide-ranging discussion between experts from practice, (environmental) policy and administration as well as with the authors.