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For drinkable water

Oct 04, 2021
In a referendum held at the beginning of July, Slovenia’s citizens voted by a clear majority in favour of preserving the shore and coastal zones. In doing so, they overturned a new law that would also have affected Alpine waters.
Image caption:
Young activists collected signatures against the Slovenian Water Act. © Uroš Hočevar

Bungalows, sheds and greenhouses or hotels, shopping centres and petrol stations: two exemption rules in the Slovenian Water Act would have allowed the construction of a variety of buildings on water bodies and along the coast. This would have endangered not only surface water but also groundwater, which provides more than 95% of Slovenia’s drinking water. Furthermore, the law would have indirectly increased the scope for privatisation of access to water while worsening flood protection, as natural riparian zones have important protective functions.

These exemptions were added to the Water Act in March 2021 in a fast-track procedure – without public debate or expert participation. A group of non-governmental organisations, including CIPRA Slovenia, reacted with a drinking water initiative and are launching a referendum with more than 50,000 signatures collected. Around 45% of those eligible to vote cast their ballots, with almost 86% opposing the amendment to the Water Act. With this vote, the Water Act loses its validity. “People have realised that we must take care of a sustainable future ourselves and not leave this responsibility to politics alone”, explains Katarina Žakelj of CIPRA Slovenia. The campaign was also an exceptional opportunity for a quick lesson on ecosystem services, biodiversity and spatial planning.

Sources and further information:

https://zapitnovodo.si (sl), https://lgu.li/artikel/rheinaufweitungen-gemeinsam-denken (de), orf.at/stories/3220668/ (de), www.faz.net/aktuell/politik/ausland/gewaessergesetz-in-slowenien-jan-as-niederlage-17434365.html (de)