Appeal to the court by the Comitato Umbro Acqua Pubblica against Umbra Acque spa

25 June 2022

Popular action at the court of Perugia by the Comitato Umbro Acqua Pubblica
With private management, the accounts are not balanced for the citizen.

It has been proven for a long time that profits and public services are incompatible and that private management maximises profits and leaves the debts and dysfunctions to the public.

This is the case of the water service which, after almost 20 years of private management, has generated profits and consolidated the manager's assets thanks to public funding and the application of very high tariffs.

While citizens save on water consumption because they are sensitive to the preservation of the resource, as well as to the bill, politicians, on the one hand, are alarmed by the water crisis (drought and water rationing) and, on the other hand, endorse waste and over-consumption, as for example, the loss of 50% of the water introduced in the distribution network. This high rate of loss is caused by the failure of operators to make the planned investments to renew the network and repair leaks.

The core of the problem is that the private management of essential public services (health, transport, schools, etc.), in our case the water service, can only lead to high management costs, waste of resources, degradation of infrastructure, job insecurity and loss of professional skills.

All this was highlighted by the Comitato Umbro Acqua Pubblica, which sued Umbra Acque spa, the water service manager of 38 Umbrian municipalities, in the court of Perugia, with a popular action, due to the inertia of the assembly of municipalities that was supposed to control the activity of the manager. Instead of demanding that Umbra Acque spa respect the management contract, applying the penalties provided for if necessary, the assembly of municipalities continued for all these years to subscribe to everything that came from the manager without carrying out any control.

The non-compliances detected during the mandate are :

  • the non-implementation of investments planned during these years, some of which are reproposed from year to year for the purposes of the annual tariff plan ;
  • the increase in management costs and unscheduled investments, a direct consequence of the non-compliance with the tariff plan ;
  • the debts of the municipalities resulting from bank loans for the construction of hydraulic infrastructures only partially repaid by repayment plans established with the manager ;
  • the high increases calculated only on the basis of the planning and never reviewed in the final balance sheet of the unrealized investments.

11 years after a referendum that said NO to this economic model and which continues to be ignored, an already dissolved Italian parliament is rushing to approve the draft law on "competition" that will re-launch the privatisation of essential public services.

With popular action, we regain the right to oppose the perverse political choices that are leading the country towards an environmental and social degradation that is now before everyone's eyes. Instead, we want to affirm the universal principles of solidarity, participation and equality between citizens through access for all to essential public services.

26 June 2022

The Comitato Umbro Acqua Pubblica launches an legal action against Umbra Acque spa to ask the Court for the early termination of the management agreement due to non-compliances by the manager

It was 12 and 13 June 2011 when 26 million Italians (quorum of participation in the vote that had not been seen for years) voted for the repeal of art. 23bis of the Ronchi decree which pushed for the privatization of the water service and public services and for the cancellation of the component of the guaranteed profit (7%) in the tariffs of the water service (Article 154, paragraph 1 of Legislative Decree 152/2006).

The popular will was clear: water is a fundamental human right and a natural monopoly so it cannot be managed with the private system which has profit as its purpose. On the contrary, management must be public and participated by citizens in order to guarantee the distribution and preservation of the resource for future generations and the protection of the environment.

This is the history. But already before of the referendum, with the attribution of the control functions of the water service to the National Agency for the regulation and supervision of water resources (Legislative Decree 13 May 2011 no. 70) and then with the Legislative Decree 201 / 6-12-2011 of the Monti government, the regulation of the water service was entrusted to the AEEG-SI today ARERA, for management under free competition, with lots of profits (renamed charges) among the tariff components.

Privatization was saved, in the name of efficiency and profit, and in Umbria in particular in favour of Suez (within ACEA, Umbra Acque and the SII of Terni) but not in favor of the citizens.

In fact, while citizens have regularly paid all the tariff increases in their water bills, the private operator has never respected the investment plan, often postponing from year to year the construction of works already covered by the tariff.

In almost twenty years of private management, the negative effects are clearly evident:

  • water leaks from the pipes have exceeded 50% of the water supplied (and today Umbra Acque spa boasts of having reduced the losses to 45%);
  • fewer investments for the protection of water quality;
  • increase of costs unplanned and operational;
  • fees not paid to municipalities which have repercussions in fewer services to citizens;
  • high rates and consolidated profits of millions of euros (4.7 million in 2021 and 6.9 million in 2020).

Despite these non-compliances of management, AURI (the Assembly of Municipalities) awarded Umbra Acque spa by, approving the extension of the convention-agreement for 4 years, until 31/12/2031, demonstrating once again the complicity between politics and business.

After a long examination of the tariff plans that have taken place over time, the Comitato Umbro Acqua Pubblica, through a citizen among the founders of the committee and with the support of 1000 other signatures of users, promoted a popular action to the Court of Perugia to request the termination of the convention-agreement with Umbra Acque spa due to default by the manager for the period of office, harming citizens and users and to claim the right to water and life for this and future generations. 

These two texts are translations into English of two articles published on the Comitato Umbro Acqua Pubblica website