Water as a Common Good in Brussels

original article published in: Bridges over troubled waters, Crosstalks, VUB press, Brussels 2012, p223-231- "L'eau comme bien commun à Bruxelles", Dominique Nalpas & François Lebecq


The era in which we are living seems to leave us ever more fasci­nated with technology, this great human endeavor that has the power to free us from the yoke of nature or that makes human beings an extension of the creator. And yet, with water, we seem to maintain an astonishing relationship: we project on water a desire, an ideal of purity and natural virginity far removed from technical complications and other social contamination. We could be tempted to say, “Cover these impure waters so that we may not see them,” to paraphrase the famous repost of Tartuffe to Dorine. In reality, the clear, pure water that apparently arrives so naturally and drinkable in the heart of the city only comes at the cost of increasingly sophisticated and expensive technology. Water is a hairy1 object that is tightly woven into social, environmental, economic, and political complexity.

In fact, water has been invisible in our city for a long time. It is a black stain on our urban development policy, repulsed by our imaginations and our concerns as citizens. And like many other elements that we don’t want to see realistically, it risks resurfacing, like the return of the repulsed, to manifest itself ever more painfully from crisis to crisis. Which is why the headlong rush towards more technology – in the name of progress – resolves some questions while posing more, and never exhausts the need to render the management of this precious resource more visible and more conscious, therefore more collective, more common... Let’s say it another way: technology and society can only exist in a complex combination of integrated interdependence. Water, like climate, is a fact of nature, but also a social, economic and political fact that merits better understanding if we wish to keep it as a common good.

Histories of aristocratic, public or democratic water?

Article by Michel Bastin

In 1830, the City of Brussels ­attempted to put a completely new hydraulic steam engine to use, intended to feed an urban system for drinking water distribution. The machine, conceived by Teichmann, the city’s engineer, was positioned on the bank of the Etterbeek pond, at the bottom of the chaussée de Wavre. Water would be pumped to a reservoir positioned at the Keyenveld, close to the Porte de Namur. In the course of one of the first tests, one of the two cauldrons, badly tuned so it seemed, exploded... a few days later, Brussels would experience another explosion, politically this time: the revolution that would lead to Belgium’s ­independence.
Water's revenge

EGEB, PUM and other water brigands will never miss an opportunity to prove that it makes no sense putting all water in the city underground. Now water itself seems to reclaim its place in the city.

Below excerpts of some news­paper articles.

Drinking rain water?

Through the development of the water point, our aims moved from creating just a meeting place, to test how far we could go in purifying urban water or even making it fit for human consumption. We started investigating drinking water standards (according to EU, WHO, ISO guidelines), probes, filter systems and measuring devices and forged alliances with chemist and DIY water-engineers.

Is Proper Water fit for human consumption? Guidelines, distribution and monopolies.
Constatations, contradictions and questions.
other DIY filters

As part of EauPropre I ProperWater the low tech water purification system would be connected to the rain harvesting pavilion. This led to some technical specification: the system had to be mobile and compact, had to work with changing flow rates, and be able to filter rain-water at the simple request of passers-by/visitors, without ha­ving to make them wait too long.

Therefore (and much to our regret) the following plans had to be abandoned. These methods were too slow, too uncertain or required electricity or constant care.

We decided to list them here below, just for the fun of it:

Filter System Pavilion 2.0 (2013)

The Proper Water Filter system

The filter set-up that survived drinking quality tests is a combi­nation of pre-filtration already taking place in the storage tank, and a collection of four micro-filtration (membranes with pores of 5 and 0.1µm) and ultra-filtration (membranes with pores between 0.1 and 0.01µm) filter heads that last for about six months.

Is rain water clean or appropriable?sorry!
This section is not translated in English (yet)

Pourquoi voyons nous généralement disparaître cette eau dans les égouts?  L'eau de pluie est  gratuite et accessible à tous, pourrait-elle être une alternative pour l'eau d'arrosage, de lavage, de boisson?
Avec ses visiteurs et utilisateurs, le Pavillon va à la recherche d'usages utiles des eaux disponibles en ville.
articles and publicationssorry!
This section is not translated in English (yet)

- Bruxelles en Mouvements n° 247-248 - numéro spécial "Voix d'Eau"
- Histoires d'Eaux Propres
- Bruxelles, ville "eau admise"
- l'Eau comme Bien Commun à Bruxelles
- dossier Eau dans le magazine Symbioses
- publications pS-Eau (Programme Solidarité Eau)
- émission radio "Science Publique" sur France Culture: "L'eau que nous buvons, est-elle potable?"
- livrets par Capacitation Citoyenne:  "Les Cris de l'Eau" , 2009 & "le collectif Eau Est Ensemble", 2011
- carte des points d'eau publiques des Infiermiers de Rue
send us your articles and opinions... they will be published here ...

City Mine(d)

Eau Propre | Proper Water by City Mine(d)
is licensed under a Creative Commons
Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Belgium License

Creative Commons License