ANEB (the French Federation of Elected Local Officials in Areas with Catchment Basins), the Banque des Territoires, BRGM, Cercle Français de l'Eau, France Water Team and UIE (the French Union of Water Industries and Companies) have teamed up as the founding members to create the Aquagir collective, which aims to accelerate and consolidate water management projects at local level.
Mobilising local players and providing support
Aquagir's objectives are to:
- Provide local and regional authorities with support for all their water-related projects in order to manage this precious resource based on a responsible, shared approach that will contribute to protecting the environment while ensuring the availability of water supplies for all the uses that are essential for the development of each area, in compliance with the governance principles established for managing river basins;
- Mobilise the relevant expertise, resources and networks of partners, in synergy with the actions provided for in the French State's Water Plan and in close collaboration with the Water Agencies.
Faced with climate change and, notably, the resulting pressure this will place on water resources, local authorities and economic agents have understood the challenges their regions will need to address. But how can we ensure action is taken at the most relevant scale in order to manage local water resources effectively and find the necessary support and most suitable solutions, from the project planning stage right through to the implementation and management phases? Moreover, since regional investment is currently lagging behind requirements in the field, all the players involved in water treatment and management have welcomed the development of a new website that helps establish contacts between project owners and contractors and provides support for project implementation.
ANEB, the Banque des Territoires, BRGM, Cercle Français de l'Eau, France Water Team and UIE are already actively involved in the water sector, providing engineering support, technical and scientific expertise on water resources, developing services that are tailored to specific needs, providing technical solutions, disseminating knowledge and financing loans for infrastructures. However, given the scale of the issues linked to managing water and the impact of climate change, these key players have decided to work together to further improve and accelerate support for local authorities, and provide more effective coordination. Moreover, they want their collective commitment to send a strong message and inform the market that they can provide a simple, adapted response in every region.
Drawing on this commitment, combined with the measures set out in the French government's Water Plan, ANEB, the Banque des Territoires, BRGM, Cercle Français de l'Eau, France Water Team and UIE have launched Aquagir, a collective that aims to provide end-to-end support for water management projects in local areas, with an overall, collective and ecosystem-based vision of the issues and solutions involved.
Working closely with the local water agencies, Aquagir aims to accelerate the implementation of operational projects.
Four common objectives to provide more targeted support for local areas
In order to reduce consumption, share available resources, preserve and restore water resources and aquatic environments, renovate networks and infrastructures, ensure effective water treatment, or prevent and manage floods and droughts, local authorities need to have a detailed understanding of the water cycle, involving several areas of expertise. Moreover, to ensure the effective quantitative and qualitative management of water, they must also draw on the skills of a wide range of public and private companies and organisations. With this in mind, the collective is committed to:
- Simplifying the project management process for local authorities throughout the entire project chain, from putting water management proposals on the political agenda to carrying out work and building infrastructures in the field.
- Raising awareness of the tools available to improve collective water management and helping identify the players capable of implementing them.
- Strengthening links between local stakeholders and facilitating dialogue between public players – in particular local authorities and groups of local authorities, including EPTBs (Public Regional Basin Authorities) and EPAGEs (Public authorities in charge of water management and planning) – private players and water users.
- Facilitating decision-making by improving knowledge of water-related issues in local areas through the provision of key data (resources, uses, networks).
The first joint initiatives already in place
Aquagir is now represented through a new website, which will be initially deployed in 3 priority pilot areas – the Centre-Val-de-Loire, Hauts-de-France and Nouvelle Aquitaine regions.
The site provides various resources:
- Practical feedback from projects to enable local players to draw inspiration from other experiences and understand how projects have been implemented in other areas. The feedback will eventually cover the entire project chain, from proposals to implementation.
- A marketplace showcasing all the public and private, local and national services and solutions available to local authorities. Service providers can become referenced as approved providers and gain greater visibility. Local authorities can request quotes and carry out operational sourcing.
The website, which already has a support platform, will gradually be enhanced with content and digital tools to help users improve their knowledge of water resources, networks and uses. It will provide access to funding and methodological tools to help raise awareness of issues and approaches among the various stakeholders involved in the field of water.
How can you contribute to the Aquagir collective? Whether you are a public or private player in the water sector, you can get involved in this initiative by having your organisation, your expertise and your service offers referenced on the Aquagir marketplace, or by sharing your feedback, your proposals for action and best practices, as well as your diagnostic tools.
In their words
We need to move faster and take tangible action to meet the water challenges facing our regions due to climate change. This is why ANEB decided to team up with other committed partners to set up the Aquagir project. We are convinced that by working together, at national level and particularly at local level, we will be able to improve our understanding and manage our water in a more sustainable and balanced way. We invite all the various players involved in the water sector to join the Aquagir initiative, and thereby contribute to establishing a more effective, joint management approach throughout the country.
During my travels around the country, I have noted that local mayors and elected officials are increasingly concerned about new challenges they face in terms of water management. By creating the Aquagir collective, and with the support of our partners, we hope to help local officials take action, by supporting local authorities in their water management projects, thereby responding to the urgency imposed by climate change. To support the Aquagir collective and address the strategic issues linked to the increasing pressure on water resources in our regions, the Banque des Territoires is organising an event in October, which will bring together elected local officials, our partners and high-profile figures from the water sector.
In the current context of climate change and global crises, BRGM's is seeking to further support local players and help them choose the most appropriate solutions for protecting and managing their groundwater and aquatic ecosystems. In France, BRGM is the historic organisation responsible for monitoring the quantity and quality of groundwater resources, which account for 67% of our drinking water supply, and for anticipating changes over time, based on our detailed knowledge of each local area. Drawing on this expertise, it also provides support services, tailored to the needs and challenges of the local authorities and areas concerned, to study, develop and implement integrated water resource management solutions, over different geographic areas and time scales, addressing short, medium and long-term issues. With the ever-increasing frequency of climate-related events, it will be important over the coming years to draw on local initiatives to develop seasonal forecasts concerning the state of groundwater resources, to gradually introduce medium- and long-term management models throughout the country, and to develop nature-based solutions for protecting and optimising the use of water resources. This is one of the priorities set out in BRGM's new 5-year "objectives contract", which was signed in March 2023.
After the drought in the summer of 2022, we really woke up to the fact that our water resources are not inexhaustible and that there is an urgent need to take action. Rivers and groundwater need to be managed throughout the water chain. But the hydrographic situation is not taken seriously enough for the political sphere to establish and apply the necessary measures. The other key issue is to ensure coherence and coordination between all the different public policies. Indeed, the problems with water in the different regions are not simply linked to environmental issues, but also issues linked to economic development, regional planning and urban development. Our local areas are a central cog in water quality, or non-quality. Our rivers are nothing more than a mirror of our dysfunctions. That is why I am convinced that every local authority, every economic player and every citizen must take an active role in water management and use, and look at what they can do to contribute help improve our overall management of this common good. It's a difficult subject, but one that affects all of us. Water is something that binds us together and protects us; it is the very foundation of health and well-being. Above all, the health of future generations depends on the actions we take today.
By drawing on the individual and collective expertise of start-ups, VSEs, SMEs, Mid-caps and major companies specialising in every aspect of water treatment and management, supported by an acknowledged academic network, we can jointly develop solutions and innovations in response to local issues. Given that 78% of economic activities depend directly or indirectly on water resources, we aim to use the Aquagir platform to raise awareness about the skills and offers of these various players, so that this wide-ranging expertise can be deployed in climate-change mitigation projects implemented by public and private players.
Water has become a major priority; today, we are increasingly aware of the need to protect this resource, and we also realise that water shortages will slow down or prevent local economic development, whatever the activity. With this in mind, I invite all stakeholders to contribute to this initiative.