This Thursday, Agbar celebrated World Water Day with an event at the Cornellà de Llobregat Àgora Agbar, at which Angel Simón, Chairman and CEO of Agbar, stressed that ‘we have accompanied the growth of Barcelona for 150 years; we have taken its name to 71 countries around the world, where our excellence is renowned, and we are convinced that we will continue to serve the public of the Barcelona metropolitan area for another century and a half’.
For Aigües de Barcelona, this year’s theme, ‘Wastewater’, in the 21st century means talking about reuse, as Ignacio Escudero, the company’s general manager, noted. ‘With the technology within our reach and the infrastructure available in our territory, we need to advance towards reuse and complete the circle of the circular economy’, he stressed.
Angel Simón, Chairman and CEO of Agbar, recalled that, on such occasions as World Water Day, special mention should be made of cooperation with government and the efficiency and quality with which Aigües de Barcelona, ‘through the effort and work of six generations of employees’, has provided the water service to Barcelona and surrounding towns for 150 years.
In relation to the topic of World Water Day, Angel Simón noted that water reuse will be essential to guaranteeing the supply in Barcelona and called on Àrea Metropolitana de Barcelona (AMB) to invest in the sewerage and wastewater treatment network of the company. ‘Years ago, both AMB and the Catalan Water Agency did not make the necessary investment to improve the metropolitan sewerage network and this is essential if we are to progress in the reuse of wastewater’, he noted.
Angel Simón mentioned the fracture in the Levante collector that occurred in Badalona in January as an example of this lack of investment. ‘That case demonstrated the efficiency of Aigües de Barcelona in solving the problem quickly and how some authorities with whom we do not have the closest relations eventually turned to us for a solution’. According to the Agbar President and CEO, the case of the Levante collector is an example of how ‘Aigües de Barcelona will continue to offer the most efficient service and highest quality to the Barcelona metropolitan area’.
In this context, Angel Simón reiterated that Agbar does business in 71 countries around the world: ‘where our excellence is renowned, and we are convinced that we will continue to serve the public of the Barcelona metropolitan area for another century and a half. This provides us with the know-how to increase efficiency in providing the water service. This is why we firmly believe that the public-private model is the best way to guarantee efficiency in providing the water service’. In Angel Simón’s opinion, talk of ‘remunicipalisation’ of the service is a fallacy, as the service has always been municipal.
With regard to the challenges faced by Aigües de Barcelona in its 150 years of history, the Agbar President and CEO stressed that ‘we are successful because we have known how to keep ahead of the times and because we provide an efficient system that is renowned worldwide. We have constantly demonstrated this: when we helped build the Eixample district of Barcelona, when we were given the concession to use water from the Llobregat River in 1953 [a concession, he noted, that some people deliberately want to hide] and in relation to the water quality and innovation’, he specified. With regard to the future, ‘we have already started implementing the so-called DISS axis (digital, innovation, sustainability and social) to continue advancing. In the digital field, we are about to start up the Digital Operation Lab in Alicante; in innovation, Cetaqua, our research centre, has just this week received the Catalan Government’s award for the best public-private partnership research centre; in sustainability, we are building a treatment plant in Chile that will be the biggest biofactory in the world; and in the social field, we never cut off the water supply to anyone who is unable to pay for it’, he asserted.
Committed to helping the most vulnerable
With regard to commitment initiatives to people and society, Angel Simón highlighted that the company ‘has shown the way forward with the creation of the Solidarity Fund in 2012. Although no government authority asked us to, we created a fund for vulnerable families’. Since it was set up in 2012, the Solidarity Fund has provided subsidies benefiting around 17,000 families, with an investment of nearly 6 million euros.
This fund is managed through local government social services where Aigües de Barcelona provides the water service and also through NGOs such as Càritas Diocesana, Diocesan Cáritas, Fundació Hàbitat3, Fundació Mambré and the Red Cross, among others. Indeed, the President of Creu Roja Catalunya, Enric Morist, was keen to acknowledge the company’s involvement in the refugee support programme in Catalonia, through which the company contributed to the integration of 50 child refugees in Catalonia in 2016. In addition, since 2013 the Agbar Foundation has cooperated with this organisation’s programme to guarantee food for children and their families throughout the year and especially in the summer, by contributing 76 euros per child per month. With regard to refugee support work, Angel Simón announced that the Agbar Foundation will be presenting a significant action in this context at the end of June.
The event was attended by mayors, councillors and officials from the Barcelona metropolitan area and other Catalan towns, the Secretary-General for Territory and Sustainability of the Government of Catalonia, Ferran Falcó, and the Managing Director of the Catalan Water Agency, Lluís Ridao. It also included a contribution from Takashi Asano, Emeritus Professor at the University of California, Davis, and one of the most renowned experts in reuse worldwide. The conference ended with a poetry reading by the writer and journalist Fernando Delgado, as part of World Poetry Day, held on 21 March, and a performance by Magdalena Mañé of the Cançó a Mahalta, a poem by Màrius Torres, set to music by Lluís Llach.
The United Nations has decided to celebrate World Water Day 2017 with the theme ‘Wastewater’ to raise awareness of the importance of treating wastewater and reusing regenerated water. Furthermore, guaranteeing the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all is one of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.