EVEL: Estonian children need better environmental education

Press release

15 November 2016

EVEL: Estonian children need better environmental education

Last night, the Estonian Waterworks Association (EVEL) sent to the new coalition government proposals with regards to the environment-related problems and areas that would need to be addressed in particular during the Estonian EU presidency period. For example, protection of drinking water, surface water and ground water requires an implementation of a legislative framework that is more specific and forward-looking. The government could also contribute more to the environmental education given to children, if we wish to preserve the clean living environment in Estonia.

“Increasing the environmental awareness must start from the early years, already from a kindergarten”, Chairman of the Board of the Estonian Waterworks Association and Member of the Board of Matsalu Veevärk AS (Matsalu Waterworks) Hans Liibek said. “Children often set the best example for their parents. Water companies alone cannot ensure the living and environmental quality conditions if we only fight the consequences of pollution at the drinking water and wastewater treatment works. We need to understand that the water companies are not the polluters. Important is to convince the society that the drinking water is a limited resource that should not be taken for granted. In order to deliver this message, a greater emphasis must be placed on the development and implementation of national study programs in kindergartens and schools”.

“The key to the protection of drinking water, surface water and ground water is a specific legislative framework that we think should in the future follow the ‘polluter pays’ principle,” Managing Director of the Estonian Waterworks Association Vahur Tarkmees said. “Fighting the pollutants only at the urban wastewater treatment works is not sustainable nor efficient. Therefore, EVEL proposes to set and apply national control over the pollutants already at the source of their delivery, usage and origin”.
According to Vahur Tarkmees, the heads of state need to recognize in the reality that the water services are of vital importance, similarly to, for example, medicine. “Unfortunately, today the principle holds as if there is no problem as long as the clean water keeps running from the tap. However, current regulations do not ensure the sustainability of a high-quality water service in 10 years run”, Tarkmees admitted. “For instance, the majority of large-scale investments of this sector in the post-soviet period have been financed from the European Union Structural Funds, which are starting to run out now. For this money, ca ¾ of the medium-sized water companies have renewed their infrastructures. What next, where to get money to solve unexpected crisis situations? Today, most of the water companies are not capable for this and the current legislation does not allow them to collect money for this, either”.

Besides the proposals regarding the sustainability of the local drinking and wastewater service, EVEL has also phrased the priority areas for the upcoming EU presidency period that would allow Estonia to make its contribution to and leave a record in achieving the desired outcome in the priority areas set by the European Council:

1. Marine environment, water and waste
a. Create a necessary legislative framework for so-called green phosphorus: create incentives for the interaction between the recovered phosphorus and the market. Preparing a phosphorus policy framework to increase the phosphorus recovery will promote the innovation, improve the market conditions and competitiveness of the European Union companies, and promote the sustainability in the areas concerning the fertilizers, food, water and waste (for more, please refer to THIS).
b. Ensure the control of micropollutants at the source of their origin: formulate the legislation based on the control at source approach, precautionary principle and the ‘polluter pays’ principle. Correct application of the control at source approach will help to move towards the real circular economy (for more, please refer to THIS).

2. Mineral resources and environmental management
a. Develop the Commission’s initiative on promoting the circular economy: including the promotion of sewage sludge treatment, reuse of phosphorus and energy, and water recovery. Merely the wastewater in the whole water industry contains valuable resources – energy and phosphorus, nitrogen and other valuable nutrients, which can be all recycled and reused in the circular economy, thus supporting the economic growth and job creation (for more, please refer to THIS).
b. Create mechanisms that will ensure available, accessible, affordable, acceptable and safe water and wastewater service in every European Union member state. Only this way we will ensure the human right to water and sanitation and leave a clean and sustainable environment for the generations to come (for more, please refer to THIS).

3. Forestry, environmental protection and fisheries
a. Promote the application of environmental standards on the approval of chemicals: instead of the end-of-pipe treatment, control on chemicals needs to be established at the source of their origin. Increased competitiveness of the European water industry will promote the innovation, job creation and economic growth in Europe, since the technological etc. innovations created by the water companies get exported also outside (for more, please refer to THIS).

4. Digital topics
a. Ensure and promote efficient, secure and innovative communication between the water companies, their customers and other stakeholders. Communication is essential in order to shape a common understanding of the priorities and needs. By making the relevant key information comparable and available we will ensure a high-quality, sustainable and affordable water service (for more, please refer to THIS).

5. Climate and radiation
a. Coordinate the water industry’s endeavors, where possible, with measures applied in other sectors to reduce the impact of climate change and adapt to the consequences of climate change, by using the EU and national policies to support this. For the water industry, climate change will remain a serious challenge, and we need to aim to reduce its impacts and adapt to its consequences, while keeping the costs under control (for more, please refer to THIS).

Estonian Waterworks Association (www.evel.ee), EVEL, is a nation-wide voluntary association of water companies, providing service through the public water supply and sewerage system, and other companies related to the same field of activity, established in 1995. EVEL represents 47 water companies and 28 water-related companies. Water companies that are members of EVEL provide service to more than 90% of public water supply and sewerage service customers in Estonia.
More information:

Vahur Tarkmees, Managing Director of EVEL
Ph: +372 530 92 153; e-mail: vahur.tarkmees@evel.ee
Silvia Kübar, Powerhouse Communications
Ph: +372 5626 9336