Drinking water price boosted by dividends

Millions of people in the Netherlands are paying too much for their drinking water because some of the country’s 13 water companies have boosted dividends to their local authority shareholders, according to research by the Volkskrant.

In places where water boards are not profit-focused, the price of water has fallen, the paper says. The Volkskrant calculates water boards paid a total €51 mln to shareholders in 2005. Top of the dividend payout list is the regional Zeeland water company Evides which increased charges by 5.5% between 2003 and 2006 and paid €34 mln to its shareholders last year. Evides is 50% owned by energy company Delta which in turn is also in the hands of local and regional authorities. In Groningen, by contrast, water charges have gone down 10%. ‘We are a social company and give any profits back to the ordindary citizen,’ city water board chief Hans Gerritsen told the paper. The Volkskrant says water costs the average family around €150 a year, of which the dividend is a tiny amount. Major users of water, however, are being hit by extra charges in areas where dividends are the norm.

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