Colau rejects Aigües de Barcelona's proposal to raise the water bill by 7.4% by 2022
Metropolitan Area has asked the company to clarify the reasons for this increase
BarcelonaThe mayor of Barcelona and president of the Metropolitan Area (AMB), Ada Colau, has rejected this morning the proposal of Aigües de Barcelona to raise the water bill by 7.37% in 2022. In a document to which ARA has had access, the company justifies that this increase "is necessary for the economic and financial balance of the operation". The proposed percentage is much higher than the average CPI increase for 2021, which was 2.3%. The new rate affects the citizens of the 23 municipalities of the Barcelona area, some 3 million people, who if this increase were to take place would notice it by each paying about €12 more by the end of the year.
The environment vice-president of AMB, Eloi Badia, has explained to ARA that the increase proposed by Agbar is "intolerable" and has emphasized that it is the highest proposal ever made to them. As he has advanced, he has already asked the company to clarify some of the concepts included in the document that seeks to justify such a pronounced increase. Aigües de Barcelona is a joint venture that is 70% owned by Agbar, 15% by AMB and a further 15% by CriteriaCaixa. ARA has contacted Agbar, which declined to make a statement.
Each year the company sends AMB a proposal for a price increase and a negotiation ensues between the two parties. It is the public administration that has the last word. This latest proposal from Aigües de Barcelona, judging by the precedents, does not seem to be going ahead. The fact is the wrangle between the administration and the mixed company takes place every year. In previous years, Aigües de Barcelona had also proposed rate increases, but AMB's response was to freeze them in 2016 and apply reductions in 2017 and 2018. In 2019 the tariff was frozen again, and for the 2020 bill the company started negotiations asking for a price increase of 4.1%, despite the fact that a final rebate of 3.9% promoted by the AMB ended up being applied. In 2021, on the other hand, the price of the bill was frozen again. Since 2015, the price has dropped by 9%.
Aigües de Barcelona's document includes up to 13 points to try to justify the rise. Some of them, according to AMB sources, are legitimate, because the price of energy has risen and, in addition, there are labor agreements that imply an increase in costs. But there are also others that they do not see clearly and they have already asked for more information. One of the ones that have most surprised the AMB is the one that claims an increase of 1.7% (€5.2bn) to cover the cost generated by "defaulters". Badia has assured that "defaulting by non-vulnerable people cannot be included in the tariff". The company's argument cites the energy poverty law, but this item has already been regularised. As a result of an agreement between Agbar and AMB, there is a protocol to include people who can prove that they have little income and cannot pay their water bill. The AMB has counted 50,000, but their bill is not paid by the company but by the taxpayer.
Other points on which the AMB has requested more information from Agbar is the proposal to increase the price by 0.3% to meet "sustainable development objectives" and the one that asks for an increase of 0.4% for the "necessary digital transformation".
The freezing or reduction of tariffs imposed by AMB has not prevented the company Aigües de Barcelona from remaining profitable. It closed 2019 with net profits of €22m and 2020 with €3.8m in profits.