The European Investment Bank (EIB) is granting a EUR 125 million loan to Société wallonne des eaux (SWDE), which is responsible for water production and supply in Wallonia. This loan will enable SWDE to pursue its investment programme totalling EUR 265 million for the period 2006-2008.
The water supply company's prime objective is to provide the population with top quality drinking water. Accordingly, SWDE must invest in the renewal, upgrading and extension of its distribution network. This loan will also facilitate the use of new technologies for treating surface water drawn from dams in eastern and southern Belgium.

The finance contracts were signed on 8 December 2006 in Verviers by Mr Marc Deconinck, Chairman of SWDE's Management Committee, and EIB President Philippe Maystadt. Mr Benoit Lutgen, Minister for Agriculture, the Environment and Tourism for the Walloon Region also attended the contract signing ceremony.
The EIB President, Mr Maystadt, emphasised the importance of EIB financing for the water sector. This EUR 125 million loan for water production and distribution complements the loans already granted to Belgium for wastewater treatment (via SPGE and AQUAFIN), amounting to EUR 1.4 billion since 1994, which have enabled Belgium to comply with EU regulatory requirements.

Meanwhile, Mr Deconinck, SWDE's Managing Director, stated: I am delighted with this loan, which will enable SWDE to speed up a series of investments in order to ensure better water quality for its customers. It is being provided at a symbolic time for SWDE as it has recently adopted a unifying role in the Walloon Region by absorbing the inter-communal associations Aquasambre (Charleroi and suburbs), AIE (Fleurus and Sambreville) and IDEMLS (Mons, La Louvière and Soignies).

SWDE, which was established in 1986, supplies drinking water to over 2 250 000 people in the Walloon region via almost one million connections. Groundwater provides 80% of the tap water while surface water, drawn mainly from dams, contributes nearly 20%.

SWDE has always been concerned with anticipating reform within the sector and has thus developed innovative water treatment tools with a view to sustainable development.

The EIB considers that these financing operations contribute to the objective of safeguarding and enhancing the environment. As a European institution committed to furthering the policies of the EU, the EIB allocates to this objective one third of its loans within the EU-25, totalling almost EUR 50 billion over the past five years, of which EUR 7.7 billion in support of projects in the EU aimed at improving water quality (catchment, treatment and supply), waste management and treatment.