Bad water... The quality of Swedish water is decreasing. In many places, the systems are out-dated and on average there are alerts of bad water once a week from people who must boil their drinking water so they don't get sick from it. It will take efforts that cost millions to avoid future health problems.

In some ways it was better in the old days.. possibly: What happened to "taking the waters" in Sweden? Did it ever cure anything or was it just a way for the rich to mingle?


The lack of a proper water supply and sewage system may have dire consequences. As it is, water for billions is leaking from poor systems every year. But what’s worse is the bacteria that gets into the drinking water. One in ten Swedes has had to boil their drinking water during the past five years, and since the turn of the century, an average of one municipality per week has proposed boiling recommendations, according to a new report. In Östersund in 2010, and in Skellefteå in 2011, 47,000 people got sick due to parasites in their drinking water. This also hit businesses hard, and the problem is thought to have cost 220 million SEK ($33 million). In April of this year, 80,000 people in Lund had to do without water for a week after bacteria had been discovered. “We see more breakouts, and problems with the infrastructure and barriers have been repeated more often. If nothing is being done about it, we will have more cases like the one in Östersund,” says Hampe Mobärg, coordinator for the private sector initiative VA-Fakta. In spite of this, Swedes have faith in their water—85 percent of the Swedish population believe they have the best tap water in the world, a notion that doesn’t match reality, according to Håkan Westerlund, director of operations and maintenance at the Kungliga Tekniska Högskloan. “We were on top 30-40 years ago, but since then we’ve leaned back, although we believe we are still on top of the league,” he says. Westerlund is supported by a UNESCO report from 2003, where Sweden can be found in ninth place when it comes to good tap water. “And we have not proceeded since then,” Westerlund says. “If anything, we’ve gotten worse.”
The wastewater net in Sweden is managed at a local level, and is financed by the VA-tariff. This tariff is determined by each municipality respectively, and differs depending on where in the country you live. In Stockholm, people pay the lowest tariff, with a fee of 247 SEK ($37) a month per normal house. The most expensive tariff is the one on the island of Tjörn, 889 SEK ($133) monthly. For 2013, the tariff was raised 4.3 percent. The report, which was conducted by United Minds as commissioned by VA-Fakta, states that there’s also a multi-million amount to pay retroactively in order to catch up. And Westerlund agrees: “Depending on where you live, it’s about 20-25 million SEK ($3.8 million). This is money that must be paid, if not by us then by our children.” He also says it is the unwillingness of the politicians to act that has led to the situation. “There’s no statue of any local politician in any town square because he or she has made an effort to manage the situation.” The local companies’ organization Svenskt vatten admits that the tariff needs to be raised, but also points out that Sweden still has a good water supply, seen from an international perspective. “The renewal rate needs to be increased for sure, but it’s not a catastrophe,” says Hans Bäckman, area manager at Svenskt vatten. In order to raise the awareness in communities, Svenskt vatten is developing a sustainability index. Project leader Magnus Montelius hopes that such an index can provide a better overview of what’s going on. “My view is that it will lead to more efforts. We supply a tool that can show the municipalities where they need to put in money, and why,” Montelius says.