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What’s the future of Monaco’s water supply?

At a recent meeting in Nice, the regional water suppliers for the Côte d’Azur and Monaco met to negotiate new water supply contracts.

The Sydicat Intercommunal des Eaux de Corniches et Littoral (SIECL), Orfeo-Eaux de la Riviera and the Régie Eau Riviera joined with Métropole Nice Côte d’Azur and the Société Monégasque des Eaux (SMEaux) to discuss the terms of the new contracts, only two after the last contracts were signed. The short-term of the previous contract was due to a change in supply companies (Veolia now running Eaux de la Riviera) and the formation of Régie Eau Riviera in 2013. They took over in 2014, supplying water to largest communes in the riviera: Beausoleil, Cap-d’Ail, Eze and Villfranche-sur-Mer. In January of 2015, they took on an additional 28 communes of ‘moyen’ and ‘haute pays’ across the region.

Water supply in Monaco

All was going well until the meeting took a surprise turn. After renegotiating contracts with Nice and Villefranche at the previous prices, SIECL refused to accept the offer from Métropole at the previous rate. Citing an “uncapped volume of water sold to Monaco,” the Principality was called out for buying 30% more water than allotted by France. The suggested price for Monaco alone rose.

But according to Olivier Moulinas, director of services for Orfeo (who manages relations with SIECL), the real issue has nothing to do with Monaco water usage. He called it a ‘tiff between the Régie and SIECL over who gets the residual money from Monaco’s water purchase. Régie Eaux d’Azur decided to raise its price for SIECL on water destined for Monaco from €0,30/m3 to €0,56/m3. The problem is, SIECL still receives the original rate from Orfeo. So the move caused quite a stir.

Manuel Nardi, the director of the SMEaux, said: “SIECL and Orfeo signed an agreement that the purchase of water that was supposed to be under the Orfeo delegate is now under control of SIECL.” To prevent what he called ‘a hostage situation’ of Orfeo by SIECL and Régie, SIECL returned to buying water from Régie for the time being.

Nardi also assured there will be no affect on the consumer over the cost of water. In reaction to the surprise change for Monaco, he said: “Nice never imagined closing the pipes to Monaco, but by waiting [for a resolution], Monaco pays SIECL, who in turn refuses to return a single centime to the Métropole.”

The question is if Monaco has enough resources to make up for the difference. The Principality’s own water supply comes from seven different pure, crystal clear sources: Ingram, Testimonio, Marie, Vaulabelle, Puits nord, Alice, and Font Divine. These sources provide 30-50% of Monaco’s annual consumption. But this year’s rainfall was significantly less than previous years. In fact, it was about half! This time last year, Monaco produced nearly 1.5 million m3 of water, while this year we’ve only reached 703,000 m3. Regardless of the heavy rains of October, the sources have not had consistent rain for a while.

Crystal clear source Vaulabelle
Water source Vaulabelle

This is why the Principality is dependent on France. The purchase of water varies significantly each year, depending both on rainfall and usage, making it hard to set a water budget. This month alone, the amount of water purchased is up a staggering 36% compared to September 2015.

In the meantime, Mr Nardi is impatiently awaiting a resolution between SIECL and the Régie Eaux d’Azur. And we can all wish for a wet and rainy rest of the year.

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