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The EIB is financing Hydrobru’s new programme to rehabilitate the sewerage network, replace supply pipes and create stormwater basins in the Brussels-Capital Region

The European Investment Bank (EIB), the Brussels-Capital Region and Hydrobru (formerly Intercommunale bruxelloise de distribution et d’assainissement d’eau) signed in Brussels on 23 October agreements enabling the financing of the rehabilitation of the sewerage network, replacement of supply pipes and creation of stormwater basins in the Brussels region.

This second EIB loan of €250 million will cover the cost of nearly half of planned investments up to 2019. This five-year plan forms part of the vast programme (worth around €1.5 billion) to renovate a quarter of Brussels’ sewerage network, i.e. some 500 km of sewers, by 2034.

For the EIB, this loan forms part of its efforts to promote improved environmental management and sustainable development, in line with the EU’s environmental and climate action policies. Under the same heading, this summer the Bank granted a €100 million loan to SBGE (Société Bruxelloise de Gestion de l’Eau), the regional public operator mainly in charge of wastewater treatment and flood control.

The drinking water supply network in the Brussels region comprises some 2 300 km of pipes. Proper management of this infrastructure requires annual replacement of 1 to 1.3%, a rate that Hydrobru has been meeting for over 10 years, allocating to it a budget of around €20 million a year.

The sewerage network comprises more than 1 900 km of sewers taking wastewater and rain water to two treatment stations located in the south and north of Brussels. Built since the end of the 19th century, the network is today thoroughly dilapidated, to the point that it has caused the collapse of roads and engendered major costs. Since 2007, Hydrobru’s Board of Directors has been aware of the seriousness of the situation and has tasked the company’s partner Vivaqua with presenting a report on the state of the sewerage network for which Hydrobru is responsible. Over 500 km of sewers have so far been inspected and examined to determine their degree of dilapidation. On the basis of these studies, thanks in particular to EIB financing and the support of the Brussels-Capital Region, since 2010 Hydrobru has markedly stepped up the pace of sewer replacement to currently around 25 km a year. This programme has an annual budget of €75 million.

The large-scale urban development that the region has seen over the past few decades also explains why certain sewerage sections are no longer able to cope with large influxes of water when there is heavy rain. The lack of rain water retention capacity is one of the main causes of the frequent flooding in a number of municipalities. Alongside the sewer rehabilitation works, Hydrobru is also participating in the efforts to improve the regulation of water flows through the sewers when there is heavy rain. In partnership with Brussels’ other water sector operators and the competent authorities, Hydrobru has taken charge of the creation of stormwater basins designed to reduce the structural flooding problems encountered in certain districts. Under the first five-year plan (2010-2014), Hydrobru built three stormwater basins that are now operational and began building another four that are currently under construction. These works cover a total area of over 35 000 m³ and alone account for a 40% increase in the municipalities’ previous storage capacity. Other projects are under study and should be able to be realised in the next few years, thanks in particular to today’s loan.

Convinced of the quality of this project following in-depth appraisal, the EIB decided to become a financial partner in this programme, alongside the Brussels-Capital Region, which is providing a financial guarantee. This joint operation will enable Hydrobru to obtain a €250 million loan on favourable terms, so substantially reducing the impact of financial charges on the water bills of Brussels users. It follows on from an initial €168 million loan allocated to the 2010-2014 programme.

The loan agreement will be signed on 23 October in Brussels at an academic conference marking Hydrobru’s 25th birthday, by Jacques Martroye de Joly and Pierre Lardot, respectively Chairman and Vice-Chairman of Hydrobru, and EIB Vice-President Pim van Ballekom, in the presence of regional authorities represented by the Minister-President of the Government of the Brussels-Capital Region, Rudi Vervoort, and Ministers Guy Vanhengel, in charge of Finances and the Budget, and Céline Fremault, in charge of Water Policy, as well as numerous elected representatives of Brussels’ 19 municipalities.  

For EIB Vice-President Pim van Ballekom: “These investments are essential to the region and especially to the daily life of the people of Brussels. The EIB is the leading provider of funds to the water sector in Europe and beyond and has financed a number of water supply and wastewater projects in Flanders and Wallonia (Aquafin, CILE, SPGE, SWDE).  This loan to Hydrobru, and the one granted to Société Bruxelloise de Gestion de l’Eau (SBGE), form part of this effort and will make it possible to carry out crucial investments while softening their financial impact on end consumers”.

For the Minister in charge of Water Policy, Céline Fremault:“Rehabilitating sewers and building stormwater basins will have multiple benefits for the local population: cleanness, flood control, pollution management, etc. These actions are fully in line with the Jobs-Environment Alliance and are aimed at supporting and developing the water sector. These investments must also be able to benefit Brussels’ businesses and create local jobs. As the Minister for the Environment, I am certain that developing the environmental sectors of the economy is a forward-looking strategy for Brussels.”

For the Chairman of Hydrobru’s Board of Directors, Jacques Martroye de Joly:“Today’s loan from the EIB and the guarantee provided by the regional government, both following an in-depth technical and economic appraisal of our project, testify to how seriously and realistically Hydrobru takes its responsibilities. Our undertakings to these two partners under the first five-year plan (2010-2014), although highly ambitious in both financial and practical terms, will have been met. So it is with the utmost confidence that today we are embarking on the second phase of this invaluable collaboration, which is of the greatest benefit to our customers in the Brussels region.