Community participation and sustainable investment in city projects: The Berlin Water Consumer Stock Ownership Plan
Water supply issues and sustainable urban development are inextricably linked in cities across the world and are becoming even more urgent given the everincreasing scale and nature of demand. As with many large cities across the world, Berlin is situated along a river, the Spree. What regularly causes massive fish death is not emission-intensive industries or citizens illegally disposing of waste. During heavy rainfall as the sewers threaten to become overburdened, the combined sewage system discharges its contents directly into the river to prevent an overflow into the streets. This problem is common to countless metropolitan regions. The measures implemented by the city of Berlin to date — underground concrete basins as buffers and an intelligent canal control system — remain insufficient to capture the 3–4 million cubic metres of untreated wastewater still discharged into the river each year. LURITEC, a new system of pre-manufactured, modular synthetic glass fibre tubes that are placed in the river instead of underground, can make a cost-efficient contribution towards closing this gap. The system is complementary to traditional concrete tanks. Two major obstacles have so far hindered implementation of the €60m LURITEC pilot project: first, a lack of financing; and secondly, a lack of political support. Here, citizens’ financial participation can lower public costs while providing a grassroots democratic backbone. A Consumer Stock Ownership Plan (CSOP) offers low-risk loan financing of a significant share of the project while requiring only a small financial contribution from the CSOP participants. Combining different revenue sources, the redemption period for repaying the €12.4m debt is 8.5 years. Community participation, in particular citizen capital participation as proposed in this article, anchors the citywide project in the citizenry, thus strengthening its democratic legitimacy and facilitating sustainable urban development.