Revitalising Brussels’ sewer system
The EIB is supporting the renovation of one third of Brussels’ dilapidated sewer system. Three years after the beginning of works, residents are beginning to feel the benefit of this huge rehabilitation plan.
Brussels Region's sewage network comprises over 2 000km of sewers carrying wastewater and rain water to the two treatment plants located in the south and north of the agglomeration. Developed towards the end of the 19th century, some sections were in such an advanced state of decay that it even caused some roads to collapse, with costs of EUR 8 million a year. It became evident that repeated repairs would become more costly than a long-term investment programme.
A two decade project
In 2010, the EIB financed an upgrade of the first 125km of the programme. The EUR 168 million loan to Brussels Regional Government and the capital’s water operator HYDROBRU covered almost half of the investments planned until 2014, and its competitive terms will minimise the knock-on effect for Brussels household water bills.
The final cost of the programme is expected to be EUR 1.5 billion, as more than 500km of pipes across the city need to be repaired or replaced. To minimise street level traffic disruption, the upgrading work will be spread over 20 years. Today, HYDROBRU Director General Yves Bourdeau says that repairs have reached their planned target of 25km of renovation or extension per year.
Accrued security and prevention of flooding
In 2013, EUR 8.1 million were allocated for unplanned interventions on damaged pipe sections or sewage connections and for collapsed roads renovations, in line with budget. All in all, between 2010 and 2013, 80km of pipes were rehabilitated and 5km were added, with a total budget exceeding EUR 215 million.
Significant progress has also been made against recurring flooding problems in some municipalities. One storm water detention basin was put into service in Molenbeek while two others are about to be completed in Uccle and Forest. An additional dozen representing around 75.000m³ extra storage capacity have either been launched or are in the planning phase.
The sewer upgrade programme is being implemented in cooperation with other infrastructure operators in Brussels, from roads to public transport operators via gas, electricity and telecoms. This will minimise the impact of the works on road users and residents alike.
Further collaboration in the pipeline
Building on successful collaboration, HYDROBRU has recently applied for a second loan. “The EIB really places the project first”, says Bourdeau. “By offering finance for the real long term, at stable and advantageous terms, the EIB demonstrates its total understanding of the life cycle of large public infrastructure projects. The financial frameworks are healthy, sustainable and viable, which are essential qualities. “
Dozens of jobs have been created during the repair works, and the impact on local subcontractors has been positive. VIVAQUA, the operational partner of HYDROBRU, has strengthened its teams with the creation of additional engineering and technical jobs.
The EIB and the water sector
The EIB is among the biggest lenders to the water sector in Europe and beyond and has already financed a number of distribution and sewerage projects in Flanders and Wallonia.
From 2009 to 2014, direct lending to water-related projects, including irrigation and sewerage, amounted to around EUR 18.5bn of which 89% was for schemes in the EU Member States.