For (too) many years, the Guadeloupean population has suffered from calamitous management of water distribution and sanitation networks. Consequence: frequent water cuts due either to network failures or to “water towers” planned by the authorities, which can deprive users of water for twelve to twenty-four hours, or even more. “It is totally unacceptable, in France today, for citizens to find themselves deprived of reasonable and permanent access to an essential service such as water. It is appalling that the practice of “water towers” is tending to become institutionalized ”, estimates Justine Bénin, MP (MoDem) of Guadeloupe, rapporteur of the bill examined Thursday, January 28 in the National Assembly.
This proposal – tabled in parallel in the Senate by the senator of Guadeloupe Dominique Théophile (Rally of Democrats, Progressives and Independents) – aims to provide a legal framework for the creation of a single structure. This could take the form of an open mixed union (SMO) for water and sanitation management, integrating the region, the department and the public establishments for inter-municipal cooperation (EPCI) in Guadeloupe. The claim is old. Already in 2009, during the great strike movement which shook the territory, the population demanded a single water management agency. No less than thirteen entities – intercommunal unions, EPCIs or municipalities – then exercised jurisdiction.
The NOTRe law of 2015 transferred to the inter-municipal authorities. Five inter-municipal structures now share water and sanitation skills: 4 EPCIs and the Guadeloupe Water Supply and Sanitation Inter-municipal Syndicate (SIAEAG), which has been maintained and brings together several urban communities. But the system, dilapidated and poorly maintained, suffering from interconnection faults between the distribution networks, remains faulty. Added to this is the multiplication of direct and wild water intakes.
The health crisis due to the coronavirus, which contributed to increasing the demand for water, only worsened the deficiencies of the system, to the point that it was necessary to install water distribution points by cisterns or bottles. Operators were requisitioned to search for leaks and carry out emergency work: 3,800 malfunctions were thus repaired. The cost of restoring all the infrastructure is estimated at 980 million euros. Of the eighteen wastewater treatment plants, only five are compliant, resulting in polluting discharges into aquatic environments and bathing water.
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