125 years of safe drinking water
Brussels in the 19th century. The city was booming. Having attracted the first inhabitants to this marshy valley 1,000 years earlier, water from the Senne had become unfit for human consumption.
The first decent drinking water transport system was inaugurated in 1855, during a ceremony attended by King Léopold I. The system was used to deliver water from the Hain river tributary sources, collected in Braine-l’Alleud, to the centre of Brussels. A distribution network was created in the city during the following years. Sufficient resources were available at the time to allow the Brussels City Water Authority to agree to provide water to the neighbouring municipalities.
As the population continued to grow, along with its water requirements, municipalities on the outskirts of the city were concerned about having to contend with shortages, hence they lent their support to an ambitious programme designed to create an independent structure to produce a sufficient water supply.
BIRTH of VIVAQUA
On 12 December 1891 they joined forces to create the Compagnie intercommunale des Eaux de l’agglomération bruxelloise (CIE) – which later became the CIBE (1909), then VIVAQUA (2006). The aim was to "ensure the Brussels metropolitan area was abundantly supplied with top-quality affordable water whose pressure was enough to be used by the emergency services in the event of fire".
The first catchment points were identified and a distribution network brought into service. The municipalities on the outskirts of Brussels were first of all supplied with water from the sources of the Bocq, in the Namur region. Another large-scale programme was launched soon afterwards to divert the waters from the Hoyoux, in Modave, and meet the ever-growing demand.
In the early 1920s, all the Brussels municipalities that were customers of the CIBE were allowed to become partners, alongside the founding municipalities. Brussels City joined the CIBE partner municipalities in 1932.
In the late 1980s, VIVAQUA was required to adjust to Belgium's institutional changes. On the distribution front, the municipalities broke off their contractual ties with VIVAQUA to join the regional intermunicipal distribution associations, while VIVAQUA continued to operate the networks.
1988 was the year the first intermunicipal association was created in Flemish Brabant: the Intercommunale voor Waterbedeling in Vlaams Brabant (IWVB). In 1989, the 19 municipalities of the Brussels-Capital Region founded the Intercommunale Bruxelloise de Distribution d’Eau (now called HYDROBRU) and 1993 saw the creation of the Intercommunale des Eaux de Centre du Brabant Wallon (IECBW).
VIVAQUA was the first Belgian public service to commit itself to "total quality management", successfully completing its certification process for the first time in 1995. Since then, its certification status has been renewed every three years on the basis of external audits. This status certifies that VIVAQUA's organisation and operations are consistent with the ISO 9001 standard.
In the early 2000s, VIVAQUA embarked upon a policy designed to extend and diversify its activities in the three regions of the country. Its operations now covered the entire water cycle: not only the production and distribution of drinking water but also the sanitation of waste water.
Pursuant to a Brussels order in 2006 creating a water policy framework, VIVAQUA was tasked with the integrated operational management of the water distribution and municipal urban waste water collection system. The order also appointed VIVAQUA as the operator for the production, transport, storage and treatment of safe drinking water intended for human consumption.