Aigües de Barcelona celebrated 150 years of history today with an institutional event in which Agbar’s Executive Chairman, Angel Simón, made an appeal to maintain the public-private partnership “as a model of success in Catalonia in almost all spheres of the economy and of society”. Simón made this appeal in the institutional event held in the Museu Agbar de les Aigües which was presided over by Carles Puigdemont, President of the Generalitat (autonomous government) of Catalonia. “We will always be by your side when it comes to contributing to the country’s economic and social progress. You have our commitment. Mine in particular and that of the over 10,000 people who currently form part of the group”, declared Simón, addressing the President of the Generalitat of Catalonia.
The President of the Government of Catalonia has emphasised that the debate on the water management model should be addressed ‘from a non-ideological perspective’, adding that it is not a question of who should manage the service, but rather of which factors need to be taken into consideration to ensure an optimum management. The President, Carles Puigdemont, has, moreover, highlighted the contribution made by Aigües de Barcelona in conserving the water reserves through its work to raise awareness and its investments, ‘which have gained the company a presence 71 countries’. He went on to point out that per capita water consumption in Barcelona has fallen by 23 per cent since 1998.
In his speech, Agbar’s Executive Chairman explained Aigües de Barcelona’s commitment to the city and to its development, and the transformation that the company has experienced over 150 years, during which it has accompanied Barcelona in its evolution and has established itself as one of the city’s and the country’s economic and social driving forces, and as a global technological benchmark. “In addition to performing our activity with criteria of excellence, anticipating the needs of people, we have always paid attention to our environment and to how we can become involved and committed to the different situations and moments of the history of Barcelona and of the country”, he maintained.
The history of Aigües de Barcelona was reviewed during the event through three fundamental pillars: social commitment, employment and innovation. “At present our solidarity fund, created three years before the law adopted by Parliament, pays the water for over 50,000 people, because we have a policy of maximum protection for the most vulnerable groups and, as we are seeing, once they are covered by the solidarity fund it is difficult for them to leave this situation”, he explained. “Placing the focus on people”, he added, “has allowed us over the years to be recognized as elements of a successful social transformation in environments with great inequality and poverty, such as for example Latin America, always guaranteeing access to drinking water for everyone”.
He likewise stressed that “with the impetus of Aigües de Barcelona, the Agbar group is a fundamental element for the creation of well-being in the territory. In 2015, Agbar contributed €904m to the GDP of Catalonia, that is to say that it represented 0.42% of Catalan GDP, and generated 10,202 direct full-time jobs”. Another important point that he wanted to highlight is that “its presence has a multiplier effect, since we are a group which drives economic activity”.
In his intervention he underlined, on several occasions, the work of the people who have formed and still form part of the company. “I would like to emphasize the fact that they have been 150 years of intense work by over six generations of Catalans who form part of the past and also the present of Aigües de Barcelona. I am convinced that there will be many more in the future. All of them will be committed, through knowledge and dedication, as we have been until now, to sustainable development and to the task of helping to bring about universal access to water and sanitation, clearly aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals”.
Agbar’s Executive Chairman, Angel Simón, also referred to the group’s commitment to innovation and technology. “As the Agbar group, with the fundamental contribution of Aigües de Barcelona, 235 professionals are devoted exclusively to research and innovation projects, with an approximate investment of €19.4m per year. This allows us to export technology and talent, and to be global benchmarks, which converts us into ambassadors for Barcelona and Catalonia worldwide”, he explained.
Eva Ferruz, President of the Inter-Centre Committee of Aigües de Barcelona, also intervened in the event, stressing “the participation of the employees in the company and in the service that it provides to almost 3 million people, 24 hours a day and 365 days a year. "We are a close-knit group and a big family. We are proud to belong to Aigües de Barcelona, and to a large extent this is because the company has always been a benchmark in social policies”.
According to Eva Ferruz, “the latest milestone reached by Aigües de Barcelona was management of the complete water cycle. Although some now question it, we believe that it is the best way to manage water and face future challenges”.
With a very dynamic format the event, held in the Ágora auditorium of the Museu Agbar de les Aigües, was presided over and closed by the President of the Generalitat of Catalonia, Carles Puigdemont. During the event, a short film was moreover projected with historical images and several connections were made, for example with Santiago de Chile, which served to present testimonials by employees, research centres and third sector representatives, among others.