Agrigento. If Empedocles, the philosopher of Akragas, were still probably among us, from Agrigento, he would write that they build tanks as if water were never to arrive. And the beauty is that 2500 years later, it would still have taken us in full.
Because the province of Agrigento, but above all the interior of the province, is the victim of such a crazy and tangled system that it tolerates – as for example in Canicattì, almost 40,000 inhabitants – shifts of water distribution of a few hours every eight days. Eight days are very pure when the house is built on a 20 or 30 thousand liter tank. Imagine with the 3 or 4 thousand liter tanks above the roofs, now characteristic of the city sky lines.
Yet, while the Region is discussing to reactivate even the Porto Empedocle desalinator, which had been stopped for years, to remedy the supply shortages, to immediately alleviate the inconveniences of almost 100 thousand people it would be enough to spend only 300 thousand euros (peanuts in relation to the budget of the Region) to buy a more powerful pump capable of bringing water from Lake Castello to the purification plant of Santo Stefano di Quisquina and from there to compensate for the lower supply from Siciliacque, the half public and half private company that takes the water and He sells it to the water service operators at a price that is not exactly the balance: Girgenti Acque pays € 0.70 per cubic meter when, for example, the Catania manager pays € 0.15. Why then are these 300 thousand euros not spent? Find out.
Probably more will be known on Friday 11 because the regional councilor for energy Daniela Baglieri has convened a crisis table in Palermo with the prefect and the representatives of Ati, Girgenti Acque, Siciliacque and reclamation consortia to discuss the Agrigento emergency. The crisis table comes after a solicitation from a deputy from Agrigento, Michele Sodano, the only one to have taken the issue head-on, picking up the growing anger of the territory.
The recent history of water in Agrigento, in a nutshell, is this: Girgenti Acque has managed the integrated water service since 2008, but to date 15 out of 43 municipalities have not delivered their networks due to the revolt of the mayors of those 15 communities who did not want to give up their sources and privileges. In the meantime, in 2018, an anti-mafia interdiction from the Prefecture arrived to the company that controlled Girgenti Acque, which thus accelerated the process for the termination of the contract and for the establishment of a consortium of municipalities. Two and a half years have passed, the termination has taken place but there is no trace of that company and therefore, in the meantime, the service is still managed by Girgenti Acque. The company after the anti-mafia ban – but there are pending appeals – is led by a prefectural commissioner (there were two but one resigned controversially a month ago) and by a judicial commissioner because in the meantime the Court of Palermo has declared the state of insolvency of Girgenti Acque which has debts of at least 80 million (half towards Siciliacque which, obviously, only gives the water that the Basin Authority requires to give and not an extra drop). And also, even if the Water Court has imposed the stop, parallel consortia continue to survive, such as Tre Sorgenti and Voltano, which in the meantime manage water and appoint Boards and Commissioners. In short, we are in a tunnel. In the background a light, albeit dim, could be seen when installing the pump at Lake Castello. The crisis table convened by Councilor Baglieri could unlock these 300 thousand euros and give the ok to reuse the desalinator.
But since when it comes to water in Agrigento not everything is always as it seems, it is better to wait. Also because the investigation by the Prosecutor of Agrigento on the management of Girgenti Acque, which according to the accusation has become a sort of employment office for the friends of the politicians who sponsored it, has almost come to an end.
But why did we arrive in June with a completely insufficient and doubly serious supply if we consider that the health emergency has precise prescriptions, including hygiene?
Girgenti Acque does not give direct blame and does not openly accuse but attributes the problems to the failure to increase the supply of water from Siciliacque. The latter, through the mouth of the head of the Legal Department, Giovanna Stagno, explains that “there are no inefficiencies” and that “the endowment we supply is that indicated by the Basin Authority”. But he warns that «Girgenti Acque has been informed that the water supply cannot be increased». The “niet” is not only linked to the insolvency of Girgenti Acque, but also to the fact that Lake Fanaco with current levels of withdrawal in October or November, if it does not rain, risks emptying itself and the problem will only get worse. Not to mention that the Fanaco aqueduct itself undergoes continuous and copious maintenance interventions.
This is why Girgenti Acque, as confirmed by the prefectural commissioner Gervasio Venuti, proposed to increase the withdrawal from Lake Castello with a more powerful pump. In short, we need more water, but Siciliacque cannot or does not want to give: «In May – explained Venuti – we asked for an increase in the supply because there are areas where in summer there is a more abundant user. But the criticality of Lake Fanaco prevents an increase in equipment and already today its use is limited. It is the whole system that is going into crisis ». A crisis that is also discharged into the pockets of users who pay among the most expensive bills in Italy with probably the worst service: “The Region should give an answer – said Venuti referring to the tariffs and cost of the water purchased by Siciliacque – because they believe they have to return from the investments and so the quota becomes that ». The solution that provides for a greater withdrawal from Castello is currently the only one possible in the short term: «We requested it three weeks ago, let’s wait and see what happens. But it is also necessary to follow up on the judgment of the Water Court which provides for the delivery of the nets by the Tre Sorgenti to Ati. We can no longer procrastinate ».