Urban Alternatives is launched by a collaboration of different actors which are united in their efforts to create a more democratic, just and sustainable world. This map seeks to highlight initiatives that work towards this goal. Proposal for initiatives not listed yet can be made directly on the website. This process is open to new collaborations.

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Grenoble Water

Socio-Ecological Transformation

What challenges did this initiative look to address?

In 1983, a new right-wing mayor was elected in the city of Grenoble in a context of decentralization and increasing power in the hands of local officials. His administration was marked by clientelism and the role he gave to large corporations in the management of public services. Elected officials and environmental activists mobilised in the 1980s and 1990s and finally proved that corruption was involved in many deals, namely the sale of the water system to Suez.

What has changed?

Overview: between 2000 and 2008, remunicipalisation allowed users to save 20 million euros, mainly thanks to more efficient water use achieved by improving maintenance. The city then launched a social water tariff policy: households for whom the cost of the service exceeds 2.5% of their annual income are reimbursed part of the amount by the CAF.

The recently adopted social tariff policy, which stipulates that households spending more than 2.5% of their income on water services will be reimbursed for part of their water bill, benefits close to 10% of city residents. The policy also has the objective of reducing water consumption by gradually putting into place a monitoring and awareness building policy on saving energy that targets different actors. The municipal enterprise aims to implement a progressive tariff system for all users – an objective that currently faces the challenge of obtaining complete information on the composition of households.

In parallel to the social strategy, the goal is to maintain a pure and untreated water supply (the only case in France). To achieve this requires engaging in a daily struggle to convince the different bodies (especially municipal ones) that this policy does not create health problems, nor is it a malicious attack (terrorism).

How did it happen?

In 1983, a new right-wing mayor was elected in the city of Grenoble in a context of decentralization and increasing power in the hands of local officials. His administration was marked by clientelism and the role he gave to large corporations in the management of public services. Elected officials and environmental activists mobilised in the 1980s and 1990s and finally proved that corruption was involved in many deals, namely the sale of the water system to Suez.

After the conviction of the former mayor for corruption, the operating agreement was renegotiated and a semi-public enterprise was created, which involved the municipality, in 1996. However, the renegotiated contract itself was also a source of controversy. It established that management and other services would be outsourced to Suez, which guaranteed growth for its revenues, even in the absence of additional business risks. The decision to remunicipalise the water system due to corruption, lack of transparency and abusive tariffs was taken in March 2000 and implemented in 2001, and the private contract with Suez was cancelled.

The municipal water company Régie des Eaux de Grenoble (REG) increased investments in infrastructure maintenance and renewal three-fold in comparison to the private operator, while maintaining the price of water at lower and more stable levels. The new public enterprise adopted an advanced form of public participation in decision-making by establishing its first water users’ committee. The committee is made up of representatives of the different water users. Every year, for example, its decisions on water prices have been made unanimously and the municipal council has always heeded the users’ committee’s opinion when voting on water tariffs. One third of the members of the REG’s board of directors are civil society representatives and the other two thirds are municipal councillors.

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