January 29, 2018
The aim of Norway’s National User Forum for Water Services is to ensure a high quality supply at an acceptable price to the consumer
Water and waste water services in Norway are performed mainly by municipalities or municipally owned companies. In 2012, the Norwegian parliament adopted a law that ensured the public ownership of water and waste water plants. The reasoning behind this law was that water and waste water services are natural monopoly services and public ownership is important for quality, safety and price efficiency in the long term. Water services are financed by tariffs paid by customers. The level of the tariffs is decided annually by the municipal council and is based on the principle of cost recovery: ‘the incomes shall not exceed the costs’.
Dialogue with customers
As monopoly services, it is important to have good dialogue between the municipalities and their water and waste water customers. In 2005, Norsk Vann (Norwegian Water) established The National User Forum for Water Services. The purpose was to develop a two-way communication at national level between representatives from different customer groups and representatives from the municipalities as water services providers in Norway.
This forum is also a way to inform on and discuss current issues of drinking water and waste water. The aim is to make it easier to create a constructive discussion and to cooperate whenever appropriate to promote the common goal; which is a good water service at an appropriate cost.
Members of the National User Forum for Water Services
The National User Forum for Water Services has participants from the following Norwegian associations and organisations:
- Norsk Vann (a membership organisation for the municipalities as water and waste water service providers).
- The Consumer Council.
- The National Federation of House Owners in Norway.
- The Co-operative Housing Federation.
- Food Drink Norway (organised under the Confederation of Norwegian Enterprise).
- The Federation of Norwegian Industries.
- Finance Norway (the organisation for the financial industry in Norway).
- A water service representative from a large municipality.
- A water service representative from a medium or small municipality.
The forum meets once or twice a year. In addition, representatives exchange useful information between the meetings. Norsk Vann has the leadership and the secretariat functions of the forum.
The meetings normally begin with information from the representatives from Norsk Vann, pinpointing current challenges in the water sector. Issues discussed include quality and safety, service fees (focusing on both quality and price), benchmarking, information to customers about services, terms for subscription and service declarations.
Members also discuss how to improve the national regulations for the water services.
If appropriate, the forum or some of the members of the forum, can contact the media, authorities and politicians, particularly if useful or important information for general dissemination is discussed.
Guidelines for better water services
The forum is very useful for creating a constructive discussion between different interest groups with a common goal – a decent water service at an appropriate cost. The work in the forum is not very time demanding. Among important achievements, the forum participants have contributed with their competence for making studies, reports and recommendations on issues such as:
- Suggestions for a sectoral legislation on water services.
- Guidance for calculating the full cost in the water and waste water sectors.
- Service pipes: technical and legal issues. ~ Investment needs in the water and waste water sectors.
- Guidelines for developing local regulations for water and waste water tariffs.
- Guidelines on the regulation of water and waste water services to the food industry.
By Toril Hofshagen, Managing Director and Elin Riise, Legal Advisor, Norsk Vann
Read more: Water MattersAuthor : EurEau