Water, water everywhere – except the faucet.
By Erl Murati for Southeast European Times in Tirana -- 15/06/12
Tirana residents store water due to the irregular supply from Albania's antiquated water system. [Reuters]
Officials often call Albania "little Norway" -- referring to the country's abundant water resources -- but due to irregular supply and pollution, frustrated citizens and businesses are forced to store water in basements or on rooftops.
Albania's Consumer Protection Office has received hundreds of complaints about contaminated tap water, in addition to irregular water supply, according to the office's head Islam Cani.
"There are over a hundred families in Yzberisht -- 4km from Tirana -- who do not have water at all, even though they pay the bills regularly," Cani told SETimes.
Tirana resident Pranvera Runaj, 47, told SETimes that water supply is interrupted in the capital throughout the day.
Additional water shortages occur due to plumbing repairs -- but citizens are not notified beforehand, she added.
"As consumers, we have a right to know when they will not supply, one day or two, so we can take precautions," Runaj said.
Consumers also complain about authorities removing water counters without notice, further complicating the situation, and making housecleaning, laundry and personal hygiene difficult to maintain.
"I advise my children to fill big buckets with water when they come back from school because when I come back from work, there is no drop of water at the faucet," Runaj said.
Albania is not the only country in the region facing these issues.
In Montenegro, a shortage of tap water is noted, especially during summer.
In Serbia, water pollution remains a main environmental issue where half the population is supplied with drinking water from controlled water supply systems. Just 63% of the population has access to public water supplies, while 35% are connected to a public sewage system.
But a 25m-euro agreement reached in April with the German Development Bank (KFW) to finance a water supply and sewage programme for medium-sized municipalities in Serbia is expected to solve some of the problems.
Experts said the Albanian government is aware of the potential sanitary issues involved with citizens storing water and is indicating that it will act to modernise the country's antiquated water-supply system.
"A water supply-canalisation system is one of the government's priorities. We have a clear plan for investments … provided from different sources as loans or as institutional grants," Eduard Hali, general director of the state-owned water authority, told SETimes.
But Hali acknowledged that both time and money are needed to secure an uninterrupted water supply. "According to the National Strategy for this sector, we will need an additional 500m euros by 2017 to satisfy the total demand in the country," he said.
Hajredin Fratari, a leading construction entrepreneur, said construction businesses are building wells as a solution to insure 24-hour water supply.
"One can open a water well at the construction site at a very low cost. After this, when people inhabit new buildings, the state has an obligation to make all the necessary connections with the main water supply system," Fratari told SETimes.