The Local Authority General Sewage Plans (PGCE) are the regulatory tool for waste water and sewage treatment in Wallonia. The cartographic plans define the areas within which both collective and private sewage systems are established.

In the collective urban waste water and sewage sector, sewage systems constitute the main priority.

The sewage pipes form a sealed underground system into which domestic waste water flows from individual users. Waste flows into main sewers - usually gravity-fed - through the sewage pipes, and on to the treatment plant, or to a collection point from where it can later be removed and treated.

Separated waste water systems differ from integrated ones. The former only handles domestic waste water and sewage, whereas the latter also handles water run-off particularly from public roads after rain. While separated systems are theoretically preferable, operational difficulties and the requirement to dispose of rain run-off explain why they are infrequently used in Wallonia.

Sewers are a local authority responsibility - local authorities being responsible for their construction and operation. The installation and refurbishment of sewers are subsidised by the Regional Government of Wallonia within its triennial investment plans, 60% for installation and 80% for refurbishment.

In 2001, the Walloon authorities, in order to optimise their investment programme for waste water treatment and to meet the calendar imposed by European directives, identified the 253 settlements with a minimum of 2,000 inhabitant-equivalents (IEs) for priority treatment. The sewage systems of those 253 settlements are being completed - as new treatment stations are brought on line.

Regional support for local authorities has been significantly increased for the 2001 - 2003 period - to some 25 million Euro. As part of this approach, the Public Water Management Company (SPGE) has proposed to the Government of Wallonia that the costs of this programme should be included in the real cost of supplied water. This approach will finance local authority borrowing in this area. It should be noted that this priority sewer construction is exempted from VAT. These measures will halve the costs to local authorities. All these measures will, in the coming years significantly increase the scope of the priority sewage system in Wallonia - currently estimated at 78%.

Waste Water Treatment in Settlements of Less than 2000 Inhabitant Equivalents

The Local Authority General Sewage Plans (PGCE) show that there are many settlements in this category, with varying realities in terms of the number of inhabitants, the population density and the proportion of dwellings connected to sewage systems.

Within the framework of integrated water management cycles in geographically designated areas, or river sub-basins, imposed by the EU on Member States, the Walloon authorities have decided to revise the PGCEs and replace them with 14 Water Treatment Plans based in Hydrographic sub-basins (PASH).

This work which is currently under way, will lead to definitive waste water management systems, individual or collective, for the smallest settlements. These systems will be related to the size of the settlement, its population density and its current sewage provision.