The Right to Water in France: the Bill has been adopted by the National Assembly

By Kristel Malègue, Coordinator, Coalition Eau

Partners Perspective coalition eau

4 Jul, 2016 in Country Processes

On Tuesday 14th June 2016, Bill no. 2715 on the effective implementation of the human right to water and sanitation was adopted by the National Assembly at its first reading. The bill must now be approved by the Senate.

The many civil society organisations that initiated the bill, including Fondation France Libertés, Coalition Eau, and Coordination Eau Ile-de-France, have been waiting for this moment for three years. The goal: that everyone in France be provided with water and sanitation, particularly the most disadvantaged, those who have no access to water and those for whom water is too expensive. This law will have an impact on one million households.

The adoption of Bill no. 758 by the National Assembly is a great step forward for France and a first in Europe! It will introduce the human right to water and sanitation into French law and also places local authorities under the obligation to provide water-fountains, toilets and showers for free public use. These are two major developments that will help restore water, in all its forms, to the heart of our cities. However, the removal of Article 5 on the creation and financing of a preventive assistance fund for water means that the adopted bill has been divested of a critical component!

The cost of this measure – setting up a preventive assistance fund for people who have difficulty paying their water bills – comes to around 50 million euros. The proposal put forward in the bill of adding a charge of 0.5 euro cents to every litre of bottled water sold in France did not gain the support required. Other financial proposals were also submitted, for example, tobacco taxes and a soft drinks tax – but all without success. A final option is for funding to be provided out of the State budget, as was the case with the ‘Energie cheques’.

However, it was the government itself, who requested that this article be removed; this despite having previously expressed support for the bill. Consequently, the scope of this law is in danger of being watered down. Associations will continue to lobby the Senate to ensure this law is adopted in full, with the funding required to effectively implement the law.

France needs to implement the human right to water and sanitation, as recognised by the United Nations in 2010, without delay. Our national dignity and our political credibility in the eyes of our fellow citizens are at stake.