22 March 2022

Each year, on World Water Day, the responsible use of and access to safe water for everyone is promoted. Its value is about much more than its price – having enormous and complex value for different sectors such as food, culture, health, agriculture, energy, circular economy and more. Following the Belgian Recovery and Resilience Plan (RRP), a main feature funded by Next Generation EU, regional water management plans create funding opportunities within this green transition. 

Belgium’s Recovery and Resilience plan: A transformative investment 

The RRP, having received 5.9 billion euro, finances investments and reforms that are expected to have a transformative effect on the country’s economy and society. Focusing on different topics, 50% of the total allocation of the plan supports climate objectives and the green transition. 

The ambition is to restore biodiversity and increase resilience towards climate change, to buffer against floods, droughts, and heat effects. This by funding measures such as circular water use projects, investments in a coherent network of protected areas for nature and climate-resilient forests, for the re-meandering of rivers, and the creation and restoration of wet nature and valleys. 

How has the budget been divided in three? 

All three governments have ambitious RRP’s for which they have allocated funding to achieve their overall goals: 

The different goals are based on five different topics: 

  1. Climate, Sustainability and Innovation 
  2. Digital transformation 
  3. Mobility 
  4. People and Society 
  5. Economy of the future and productivity 

Specific for drought, water scarcity and flooding, Flanders has invested the most out of the three regions (500 million euro). Wallonia has no fund allocated specific to this topic but has a general climate fund (283 million euro). Brussels has invested (350 million euro) to create opportunities and invest in climate goals such as water management. 

The situation of water availability on the agenda 

Sustainable water practices are a priority, even in a country such as Belgium which is often described as a rainy country. Different elements bring to the attention the risks of a lack of water, such as: 

  • The creation of a drought unit in Wallonia 
  • The engagement of the Flemish government in a Blue Deal 
  • Restrictions on water use during the summer in multiple Belgian municipalities 

The situation of Belgium in terms of water availability allows for capital to be allocated towards sustainable strategies. Added, those that seek to effect change, investors can earn attractive financial returns while making a positive contribution to the environment and society. 

European Water Policy and Regional water management 

Water protection is one of the priorities of the European Commission. The idea of the Water Framework Directive (WFD) is to get polluted waters clean again and keep them that way.  

In Belgium, regional water management plans in Brussels, Flanders and Wallonia have been implemented.  Each Water Management Plan (WMP) is an integrated and comprehensive response to all the challenges linked to water management (rivers, ponds, drinking water, groundwater, flooding, …). For each region, it contains actions to major issues related to water management in order to achieve a good state of water environments and better manage flood risks. The next WMP’s (2022-2028) are being developed. 

An abundance of subsidy opportunities: why invest? 

The Belgian investment opportunities in water are diverse and resilient. The possibilities run through the global economy, across markets, sectors and regions. The diversity is shown in the different funding possibilities: 

The Flemish Region 

  • EcologiePremie+: Encouraging companies to organize their production process in an environmentally friendly and energy-saving way, where the Flemish government will bear part of the extra investment costs. 
  • Strategische Ecologiesteun (STRES): Encouraging SMEs and large enterprises to invest in technologies that cannot be standardised due to their unique business-specific nature.  
  • Blue deal water investment savings: A measure for investment in water saving, drought prevention and the recovery of groundwater levels, for supplementary machinery to (usually) EP+ tech. 
  • Proeftuinen Droogte: The (temporary) program supports innovative projects in which at least three parties cooperate and mitigate a local (potential) water shortage by exchanging water flows. 
  • Project call ‘reuse of residual water: An extra effort to address the challenges of increasing water demand, decreasing water availability and the principles of circular economy in the agricultural sector. 

The Walloon Region 

The Brussels-Capital Region 

  • Energy premiums for heating: Invest in the efficient installation of heating and hot water. 
  • Premium for a rainwater infiltration system: The provision of rainwater management facilities on the plot helps to reduce the impact of run-off water on the sewage network while enhancing the value of the landscape and the environment. 
  • Fighting floods: Support for flood control works in Laeken. 

Are you looking for grants for water activities? FI Group consultants offer advice and grants within the different support measures for water (R&D and Investment), looking out for both challenges and opportunities.   

FI Group has 20 years of experience and wants to support you in understanding and intercepting the available R&D+I opportunities. Our experts are at your disposal to analyse your project and to take the next steps together with you on the NextGenerationEU-path. 

Yvette Poumpalova 

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