The European Investment Bank has signed a EUR 200 million (440 million Dutch guilders(1)) loan to"Waterleiding Maatschappij Limburg N.V." (WML), a publicly owned company producing and distributing drinking water for virtually the entire Province of Limburg, serving a population of about 1.1 million as well as industrial customers situated within the province.

The EIB loan will contribute to the financing of a major investment programme that will have a positive impact on the environment and quality of life in Limburg. A large portion of WML's investment programme will allow the company to partially switch water resource dependency from ground water abstraction to surface water use. This switch will reduce the sinking of water tables, currently negatively affecting farming and natural areas, thereby contributing to the conservation of sensitive natural areas. Other parts of the programme will either improve the reliability of WML's drinking water supply systems or enhance the quality of drinking water through a reduction of its calcium content. WML's investments are thus consistent with one of the EIB's priority intervention objectives, the improvement of the natural environment and the quality of life.

EIB Vice-President Rudolf de Korte said: "Financing projects aimed at improving and protecting the natural environment enhancing the quality of life is a constant priority for the EIB. Over the past decade, the Bank's lending for the environment has grown steadily, totalling EUR 48 billion within the European Union, including an increasing number of loans for urban improvement projects. The EIB is very pleased to support the investment programme of Waterleiding Maatschappij Limburg as it serves both the protection of the natural environment and the enhancement of the quality of life for citizens in the province".

Over the past five years (1994-1998), total EIB loan signatures in the Netherlands amounted to EUR 2.3 billion. Operations included the construction and upgrading of water supply systems in the Province of Noord-Holland, an urban development project in Amsterdam and the strengthening of river dykes in the Province of Gelderland.

As the European Union's financing institution, the EIB supports capital investment projects contributing towards one or more of the following EU objectives: regional development; transport, telecommunications and Trans-European Networks (TENs); a secure energy supply base; improvement of the natural and urban environment; development of infrastructure in the health and education sectors; enhancement of the competitiveness and integration of European industry; investment by SMEs; venture capital finance. Outside the EU, the Bank participates in implementing the EU's development policy in accordance with the terms of the various agreements which the Union has concluded with some 130 countries.

(1) EUR 1 = NLG 2.20.