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25 January 2006 most certainly was a red letter day. This was the day that the representatives of the 25 local authorities belonging to the Wasserverband Lausitz water association met to vote on whether or not to grant a 20-year contract covering the technical and commercial operations of their plants and facilities to a private sector firm. 97% of those present voted in favour – the beginning, therefore, of their collaboration with the newly founded Wasserverband Lausitz Betriebsführungsgesellschaft mbH (aka WAL-Betrieb), a fully owned subsidiary of REMONDIS Aqua GmbH & Co. KG from Lünen.
The contract was then officially signed in the ceremonial hall in Senftenberg Castle on 17 February. Ten years have passed since then and there are plenty of reasons for celebrating this anniversary. Despite the falling number of inhabitants in the region, WAL-Betrieb has succeeded in keeping fees and charges stable and has established itself as a particularly family-friendly employer.
Thanks to the PPP, the fees and charges paid by the local residents have remained stable for 10 years now.
Several years had been needed beforehand to draw up the contract. First the resolution had to be passed by the association, then the project had to be put out to tender across Europe (a three-stage process) and finally the extensive contract had to be drafted. The association had decided to take this unusual step because its municipal business was going through such a difficult period at the turn of the century: high levels of debt, a continuous increase in fees and charges, an urgent need to invest in new machinery and equipment, a falling population and – according to a report compiled by a firm of consultants – a workforce that had too many employees (135 people).
Halfway through the contract and the situation is looking really good: all of the targets set out in the contract have been met by REMONDIS Aqua. There were two main points that were right at the top of the list when the decision was taken to hand over the technical and commercial operations to the privately run WAL: first that the plants and facilities should remain the property of the local authorities and second that the fees and charges paid by the local inhabitants should remain stable over a long-term period. The following goals were set for the external operator:
After just ten years of running the business, REMONDIS Aqua’s subsidiary WAL-Betrieb has already achieved all of these targets – winning over even the biggest sceptics.
The privately run WAL-Betrieb has succeeded in increasing the size of its workforce.
WAL-Betrieb has been operating beyond the borders of the WAL Association for a long while now. Besides extending the number of commercial and technical services it offers in the drinking water and wastewater sector, it also provides clients with planning services. Mention should be made here of the support it gives numerous local authorities and utilities companies, helping them to set up and manage geographical information systems (GIS). Moreover, WAL-Betrieb in Senftenberg runs an international training centre which students from all over the world can visit to learn more about water management. The company has already welcomed many specialists from, for example, Turkey, Egypt, India and China. Dr Roland Socher, who has headed the association for fifteen years now, appears to be very relaxed whenever he is asked about the next ten years: “We had some very precise expectations of WAL-Betrieb when our cooperation work began and it has fulfilled them all in a truly impressive way. Credit must go to our employees for moving from the association to WAL-Betrieb and credit must go to REMONDIS. This development can also be put down to the great way the contractual partners work together.” His forecast for the next ten years: “We have a highly competent water management company at our side. This fact will guarantee continuity and quality for our customers over the coming years.”
Norbert Rethmann (4th from right) with the WAL board members and the management team and shareholders of WAL-Betrieb