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.


Eau de Paris

Democratic Remunicipalization

What challenges did this initiative look to address?

Until 2010, the water and sanitation services of Paris was fragmented between two private distribution companies (Suez and Veolia), a public-private company (SAGEP) that controlled production infrastructure, and a public laboratory responsible for sanitary control.

Financial audits demonstrated that the cost price of water was 25-30% higher than the actual cost per subscriber for the operators. Indeed, the cost of water had risen at an average of 7% per year between 1980-2010 - much faster than inflation - in what was largely driving increased profits in a fragmented water production and distribution network.

Prior to the municipalisation of Paris's water, the fragmentation of the sector also led to a lack of transparency and responsibilty over the service. It was demonstrated that responsibilty for any single drop of water could shift between operators up to a dozen times. Not only did this drive up costs, it also prevented joined-up interventions that required the negotiation of multiple different institutions.

What has changed?

In the first year of operations, the new municipal operator Eau de Paris realized efficiency savings of €35 million, which allowed for an 8% drop in tariffs. Till today the price of water and sanitation in Paris remains well below French average despite the specific technical difficulties of ensuring safe drinking water supply in a large metropolis. Eau de Paris also engaged in solidarity actions: it increased its contribution to the city’s housing solidarity fund (from €175,000 to €500,000), paid a water solidarity allocation to 44,000 poor households in the city, launched a water saving campaign, and systematically avoided cutting off water supply in squats.

Eau de Paris' governing body includes a seat for the Observatoire Municipal de l'Eau (OPE). The OPE was established in 2006 as an extra-municipal commission ‘tool for collaboration and citizens’ oversight regarding Paris’ water policy’. The Observatory is informed of all major deliberations on water management, on which it issues an opinion prior to their presentation at the City Council. These deliberations concern, for instance, the price and quality of public drinking water and sanitation services as well as the annual activity report of Eau de Paris.
The former CEO of Eau de Paris, Anne Le Strat, said that”the Observatory model is a new experiment for the public water company to hear direct feedback from citizens and for citizens to engage in the strategic management of Eau de Paris.”

How did it happen?

In 2010, following the expiry of the contracts with Suez and Veolia, the City of Paris established the municipal water company Eau de Paris. Eau de Paris is now a "régie à personalité morale et à autonomie financière", a semi-autonomous body with a separate budget and legal status. It is publicly owned and city-controlled.

The initative was led by the local authority – rather than being driven by social movement – which in 2007 began through forcing both Veolia and Suez to sell their shares in SAGEP back to the French national investment bank SDP. In 2008, following public debates with associations and trade unions as well as the opinions of consultative bodies, the decision was to create a public authority, taking in charge of the entire water production and distribution chain.

Eau de Paris began operating Paris' water systems on January 1, 2010, and there was no apparent difference in service to end users. However, a new performance contract was signed between the city and Eau de Paris, defining the new public company's objectives, putting it under closer public scrutiny than any local water provider in the past.