Thirteen years after the referendum on the public water, Naples remains the only city to have implemented it

Thirteen years after the referendum on the public water, Naples remains the only city to have implemented it

Thirteen Years After the Referendum on Public Water: Naples Remains the Only City to Have Implemented It

It has been thirteen years since Naples, the third-largest city in Italy, held a historic referendum to take back its water supply from private hands and reclaim it as a public good. In June 2008, Naples citizens voted overwhelmingly in favor of the initiative, known as the “Law against the Despotic Monopolies on Water,” with 87% of the votes in favor. The city’s decision to reassert control over its water resources marked a significant milestone in the ongoing struggle against privatization and corporate exploitation of essential services.

Despite this triumph, however, Naples remains the only major Italian city to have implemented such a measure. The other 59 Italian cities that held similar referendums in 2008 all saw their attempts thwarted by legal challenges and political interference. Naples’ success can be attributed to its unique combination of grassroots activism, a strong civic identity, and the unwavering commitment of its mayor at the time, Mario Auriemma. The city’s residents organized themselves into various associations and coalitions, united by the belief that water is a fundamental right and not a commodity to be bought and sold.

In the


of the referendum, Naples undertook a massive project to overhaul its water infrastructure. The city’s


public company was formed to manage the water supply and distribution, with a focus on efficiency, affordability, and sustainability. The


team worked tirelessly to replace leaking pipes, improve water treatment facilities, and expand the network to underserved areas. By 2011, Naples had successfully reduced its water losses by 35%.

Moreover, the city’s


initiative served as a powerful catalyst for other European cities seeking to reclaim their water resources. The European Citizen’s Initiative “Water is a Public Good!” was launched in 2015, with Naples serving as a model for the campaign. The initiative collected over 1.6 million signatures from across Europe, demonstrating the widespread support for publicly-owned water supplies.

Fast forward to present day

, Naples’ water system continues to thrive, providing a reliable and affordable supply to its residents. The city’s Municipal Water Company, now called

“Aquaferm Napoli”

, is a shining example of successful public management. The experience gained from the implementation of the referendum has also informed other important decisions in Naples’ urban policy, such as the recent decision to take back its public transport system from private operators.

The story of Naples and its thirteen-year struggle for publicly-owned water serves as a powerful reminder that citizens have the power to challenge corporate control over essential services. The city’s success is an inspiration for activists and policymakers worldwide, demonstrating that a people-centered approach to water management can lead to better outcomes for all.
Thirteen years after the referendum on the public water, Naples remains the only city to have implemented it

I. Introduction

Water Crisis in Naples, Italy before the Referendum

Naples, Italy’s third-largest city, has a long-standing history of water issues that predates the 2008 referendum on public water. This southern Italian metropolis, nestled between the Mediterranean Sea and the volcanic Mount Vesuvius, has faced innumerable challenges related to its water supply.

Background on Naples’ Historical Water Issues

The city’s water woes can be traced back to ancient Rome, when aqueducts were constructed to bring freshwater from distant sources. However, these infrastructure projects proved insufficient over time due to natural disasters like earthquakes and eruptions of Mount Vesuvius. Moreover, the industrial revolution in the 19th century brought about a new wave of problems as factories polluted Naples’ water sources.

Description of the Poor Quality and Unreliability of the City’s Water Supply

Poor quality and unreliability have long characterized Naples’ water supply. Contaminated with heavy metals and other pollutants, the tap water was often undrinkable without filtration or treatment. Furthermore, power outages and bureaucratic mismanagement frequently disrupted the water supply, leaving residents in dire straits during emergencies.

The 2008 Referendum on Public Water in Naples

Context and Motivation behind the Referendum

In 2008, Naples’ citizens voted in a landmark referendum to take control of their city’s water supply from private companies. The move was driven by mounting public discontent regarding the high cost and poor quality of water services provided by these corporations. With support from local environmental groups, activists, and politicians, the citizens’ initiative gathered sufficient signatures to put the issue up for a popular vote.

Overview of the Results and Immediate Aftermath

Results and Aftermath

The referendum saw a resounding victory for the citizens, with over 70% of voters choosing to reclaim their water supply. The city’s municipal government subsequently assumed control of the water utility company, known as AQUA, and vowed to improve the quality and accessibility of water services. In the years following the referendum, significant progress was made in addressing Naples’ historical water issues. However, challenges persist, and ongoing efforts are required to ensure a reliable and clean water supply for the city’s residents.

Thirteen years after the referendum on the public water, Naples remains the only city to have implemented it

The Implementation Process in Naples

After the successful referendum in Naples, Italy, in 2013, which saw the city’s residents vote to take back control of their water services from private company AQUA, the initial steps towards public management were taken. The Water Committee, consisting of local experts and advocacy groups, was formed to oversee the transition process. Simultaneously, preparations were underway for the takeover itself.

Description of the initial steps taken after the referendum

  1. Formation of the “Water Committee”
  2. Preparations for the takeover of AQUA, the private water company

Challenges faced during the transition to public management

Transitioning a city’s water services from private to public management is no small feat. The process faced several significant challenges:

  1. Financial and technical hurdles: The city needed to acquire the necessary funding and expertise to manage its water services effectively. This included purchasing the infrastructure from AQUA, which came with a hefty price tag, as well as hiring skilled personnel and investing in upgrades.
  2. Resistance from AQUA employees and shareholders: The private company did not willingly give up control of Naples’ water services, leading to resistance from AQUA employees who feared for their jobs and shareholders who saw their investments at risk.

Milestones achieved during the implementation process

Despite these challenges, progress was made in the transition to public management:

  1. Improvements in water quality and infrastructure: The public management of Naples’ water services led to significant improvements in both water quality and infrastructure. This included the installation of new filtration systems and the rehabilitation of aging pipelines.
  2. Increase in customer satisfaction: The public takeover resulted in increased customer satisfaction, with residents reporting fewer water outages and better overall service.

The role of local government, community organizations, and international support

The successful implementation of public water management in Naples was not just the result of the city’s residents’ vote but also the support of local government, community organizations, and international bodies. These entities played crucial roles in ensuring the transition was carried out effectively and efficiently:

Thirteen years after the referendum on the public water, Naples remains the only city to have implemented it

I Impact on Naples Residents and the Local Economy

Improvements in water accessibility and affordability for residents

The implementation of the Water for All project in Naples has brought about significant improvements in water accessibility and affordability for residents. This has been achieved through a number of measures, including:

Reduction in water bills

One of the most tangible benefits for residents has been a reduction in their water bills. Prior to the project, many families were struggling to pay their bills due to high prices and unreliable services. With the new system in place, water bills have been reduced by up to 50% for some households. This has not only eased the financial burden on families but also allowed them to allocate their resources towards other essential needs.

Increase in public awareness and participation

The Water for All project has also led to an increase in public awareness and participation. Through community outreach programs, residents have been educated about the importance of water conservation and the role they can play in maintaining the new system. This has led to a greater sense of ownership and engagement among residents, who have taken steps to conserve water and report leaks or other issues.

Effects on the tourism industry and businesses in Naples

The Water for All project has had a positive impact on Naples’ image as a desirable travel destination. By addressing one of the most pressing issues facing the city, tourism officials have been able to promote Naples as a cleaner and more livable destination. This has led to an increase in bookings and visitation, particularly among eco-conscious travelers.

Positive impact on Naples’ image as a desirable travel destination

The improvement in water accessibility and affordability has also had a ripple effect on the local businesses. With fewer disruptions caused by water shortages or outages, businesses have been able to operate more efficiently and effectively. This has led to improved competitiveness in the local economy and increased confidence among investors and entrepreneurs.

Improvements in the competitiveness of local businesses

The Water for All project has also highlighted the importance of investing in infrastructure and public services as a means of improving competitiveness and attracting investment. This lesson can be replicated in other cities around the world, particularly those facing similar challenges related to water accessibility and affordability. By investing in these areas, cities can not only improve the quality of life for their residents but also attract new businesses and investment opportunities.

Thirteen years after the referendum on the public water, Naples remains the only city to have implemented it

Challenges and Future Prospects

Despite the significant progress made in improving Naples’ water supply system, there are still ongoing issues and remaining challenges that need to be addressed. One of the most pressing concerns is the continued investments in infrastructure and technology, as outdated pipes and inadequate treatment facilities continue to pose threats to public health and the environment. Furthermore,

political and organizational hurdles

persist as key challenges, with complex governance structures and conflicting interests between various stakeholders making it difficult to implement long-term solutions.

Ongoing issues and remaining challenges

Firstly, the need for continued investments in infrastructure and technology cannot be overstated. The replacement of aging pipes, upgrades to treatment facilities, and the implementation of smart water management systems are all essential to ensuring a reliable and sustainable water supply. However, these investments require significant funding and political will, which can be challenging to secure.

Future prospects and potential for expansion

Despite these challenges, there are also numerous opportunities for improvement and expansion. One promising area is the potential to bring clean water to

outlying areas that have historically been underserved

. This could involve extending existing water distribution networks or building new ones, as well as implementing decentralized systems that allow communities to manage their own water supply.

The role of Naples as a model for other cities facing similar challenges

Another potential avenue for progress is the exploration of renewable energy sources and sustainable water management practices. Naples’ unique geological conditions, with abundant solar energy and access to both the Mediterranean Sea and underground aquifers, make it an ideal testbed for innovative solutions. By embracing these technologies, Naples could not only improve its own water supply but also serve as a model for other cities facing similar challenges around the world.

In conclusion, while there are significant challenges to be addressed in Naples’ water supply system, there are also numerous opportunities for improvement and expansion

. By investing in infrastructure and technology, addressing political and organizational hurdles, and exploring innovative solutions, Naples can not only secure a reliable water supply for its own residents but also serve as a model for other cities facing similar challenges.
Thirteen years after the referendum on the public water, Naples remains the only city to have implemented it


In the journey towards achieving public water implementation in Naples, Italy, both successes and challenges have emerged. Successfully, the city has managed to provide water access to over 2 million residents, reducing water poverty and improving overall public health. Moreover, the implementation of rainwater harvesting systems and the use of reclaimed water have significantly reduced Naples’ reliance on external water sources and contributed to the preservation of the local aquifer. However, challenges persist, such as the need for continuous maintenance of the infrastructure and the resistance from certain communities towards the implementation of water metering systems.

Recap of the successes and challenges

Despite these challenges, Naples’ experience serves as an important example of how public water management can be a viable solution to global water crises, particularly in regions where access to clean and reliable water sources is limited. The city’s successes demonstrate the potential for local communities to take ownership of their water resources and develop sustainable water management practices.

Emphasis on the importance of public water management

Public water management

is crucial in addressing the global water crisis. With two-thirds of the world’s population projected to face water shortages by 2025, it is essential that governments, communities, and international organizations invest in and learn from experiences like Naples. By empowering local communities to manage their water resources sustainably, we can create a more resilient and equitable future for all.

A call to action

Let us not wait until water shortages reach crisis levels in our own communities.

Instead, let us support and learn from initiatives like Naples’ public water implementation process. Governments can invest in the infrastructure necessary to provide access to clean and reliable water sources for all, while communities can take ownership of their water resources and develop sustainable water management practices. International organizations can facilitate knowledge exchange and provide technical assistance to support these efforts.

Together, we can create a future where water is accessible, affordable, and sustainably managed for all.