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World Water Day - March 22

Drinking water in Bulgaria – do we take it for granted or is it a source of ‎concern

Photo: pixabay

Bulgaria's water resources are not among the largest in Europe, yet almost all ‎water sources in Bulgaria are formed on Bulgarian territory, which makes the country ‎independent in this regard. At the same time, there are towns and villages in ‎Bulgaria where tap water cannot be used even for domestic needs. Even in the ‎capital city of Sofia, technical problems with the water pipes are a frequent ‎phenomenon, and drinking water often gets poured out into the streets... at the ‎expense of the consumers. ‎

Against the background of the ever-increasing needs for access to clean ‎drinking water, what are the challenges facing the water sector in ‎Bulgaria? ‎

The water supply and sewerage sector in Bulgaria has not been in good ‎condition for years, says Ivan Ivanov, chairman of the Bulgarian Water ‎Association, in an interview for Radio Bulgaria. The infrastructure is morally ‎and physically outdated, and the institutions are not sufficiently engaged and do ‎not prioritize water supply and ecology, which are closely linked, stresses Eng. ‎Ivanov. This leads to a constant lack of funds and non-fulfillment of European ‎directives.‎

‎"We have to build a lot of wastewater treatment facilities, ‎but an additional ‎challenge has arisen with the entry into force of the EU Drinking Water Treatment ‎Directive. It has been changed and sets higher goals for all member states of the ‎European Union, as their implementation is related to additional investments. ‎Against the background of the lack of funds for investments, we are currently ‎adding new needs that will be very difficult to meet if Bulgaria does not ‎recognize the water supply and sanitation sector as a priority."‎

In addition to requiring a greater percentage of drinking water purification, the ‎directive introduces new additional indicators for which Bulgaria is ‎technologically not prepared with laboratories to examine the quality of drinking ‎water. On the other hand, water losses in the water supply systems in the country ‎are 60% on average, and some water supply operators report over 80% of ‎losses, which is quite alarming, points out Ivan Ivanov and adds:‎

Eng. Ivan Ivanov, chairman of the Bulgarian Water Association
‎“Of course, these are not just leaks. It is largely due to the so-called commercial ‎losses and incorrect measurement of water consumption. Nevertheless, we need ‎to tackle this problem, especially since this drinking water directive requires all ‎EU member countries to analyze and present data on water losses from water ‎supply systems for the next three years and then they will be given specific clear ‎goals for their reduction”.‎

Even if Bulgaria is calmer for now in terms of available water and water use ‎regimes, at the end of winter in Europe, some countries began to introduce a ‎water rationing regimes. Eventually, this problem will come to us, and it has ‎already come locally to Bulgaria’s Pernik once. “Unfortunately, I remain ‎convinced that and we will have more serious problems with water resources in ‎the future", predicts Ivan Ivanov.‎
The lack of a water strategy has led most water sector professionals to believe ‎that the state has abdicated from its responsibility. And even if there are qualified ‎professionals with the energy and desire to find a solution to the problems, they ‎stumble in the clumsy apparatus of public administration. This is precisely what ‎makes young specialists in Bulgaria look for career opportunities in other ‎countries , Ivan Ivanov believes:‎

‎"Very often the problems with water supply and the rationing of drinking ‎water are not due to a water source and water resource problem, but to the lack ‎of an engineering solution implemented in practice. For example, for more than ‎‎20 years, the town of Omurtag has been under water rationing because ‎the state cannot find an engineer to design a good facility to bring water to the ‎town. This is an absurd situation that should not be allowed. Water supply is a ‎priority for every city, it must be thought of first, and I cannot understand how ‎many more years we will exist in this ludicrous situation."‎

The main challenge for the rehabilitation of the national water supply and ‎sewerage system remains the insufficient financing. The state relies mainly on the funds from ‎the European Union and to some extent on the funds of the water supply ‎operators. The Bulgarian state also allocates certain amounts, but they are not ‎enough, explains Eng. Ivanov:‎

‎"The bad thing is that against the background of this shortage, we do not manage to absorb fully even the funds that ‎are provided to us by the European Union free of charge. Under the Environment Operational Program, we report a delay, ‎which also resulted in missed absorption of available resources to the tune of ‎hundreds of millions of Bulgarian leva. The reasons for the non-implementation of ‎the projects are rooted in the fact that the individual institutions had to make a quick ‎decision to update the prices of the builders to support the water supply operators. ‎These decisions are made, but when it is too late to catch up with what has been ‎omitted. It is precisely the lack of priorities regarding the water supply and ‎sewerage sector that leads to missed benefits for all of us. At the moment, a ‎specialized law for water supply and sewerage services is being developed under ‎the Recovery and Resilience Plan, which will perhaps lead to the solution of some ‎of the described problems.”‎

Read also:

Edited by Elena Karkalanova

English version Rositsa Petkova

Photos: bwa-bg.com, Darina Grigorova, BGNES

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