The quality of water resources for drinking water is not good everywhere, and in the case of surface water sources, these resources can quickly change in quality and quantity. These changes have been increasing with climate change through warmer water and increased occurrences of extreme weather, along with the risk of contamination [1
]. If too little recharge is applied, groundwater is also likely to be contaminated and overexploited [2
Access to raw water for producing drinking water from both surface water and groundwater in Sweden is good in general. However, half of Sweden’s lakes and streams do not meet the requirements for good water status according to the European Union (EU) Water Framework Directive [2
]. To meet the requirements, water resources must be used in the right manner and kept in good quality.
Fifty percent of municipal drinking water in Sweden comes from surface water, 25% comes from groundwater, and 25% comes from artificial groundwater [3
Sweden is a member of the EU, and water regulations are based on EU directives that are then implemented in Swedish legislation. The Swedish Government and central authorities have the highest responsibility to ensure that Sweden complies with the EU framework. The 21 regional County Administrative Boards have, on the one hand, a connective role between people and municipalities; on the other hand, they have a connective role between the government and central authorities [2
One obligation of the 290 local municipalities is to arrange water services that comply with directives that Parliament and the Government have issued. The Public Water Service Act regulates the municipalities’ water services to ensure water supply and sewerage through a focus on sound financial management and good quality, both in short- and long-term plans [4
]. However, planning that takes climate change and long-term urban planning into account is poorly regulated in Swedish national policy. Municipalities have a planning monopoly and apply this on an individual basis [5
]. The lack of a general long-term strategy for water services is consistent with the results from both the sustainability index (SI) and studies financed by the Swedish Water and Wastewater Association (SWWA). The Swedish municipal Water and Wastewater (W and WS) organization has a functional capacity for operation but needs to be strengthened in order to develop long-term sustainable strategies [7
]. Moreover, one of the conclusions from the SI analysis for 2017 is that increased strategic measures and investments are required to ensure long-term sustainability [8
]. According to [4
], two factors, among others, should make developing sustainable long-term strategies possible within municipal W and WS organizations: Active ownership and access to competent staff.
There were frequent problems with the quality of drinking water in the previous water treatment plant of Växjö (WTP) due to a shallow lake used for raw water abstraction that experienced eutrophication and elevated summer temperatures. The problems were temporarily managed from the mid-1980s, but politicians and consumers asked for better solutions. In 1998, Växjö conducted a comprehensive investigation to study the possibilities for its future water supply (FWS). Seven different options were studied and presented to local politicians, one of which was to rebuild the existing WTP. However, an option that involved the extraction of groundwater from the Bergaåsen–Berga Esker area was chosen to form the FWS of Växjö. The Bergaåsen area is located in Kronoberg county, in the municipality of Ljungby, 50 km west of Växjo. The Alvesta municipality, which is located between Ljungby and Växjo, is another with occasional problems with drinking water quality. Alvesta desired to be included in the same project as Växjo for its future water supply. Ljungby also desired to utilize Bergaåsen as a source for their water reserve, as they lacked their own reserve [9
]. Figure 1
shows the location of the Bergaåsen project within the County of Kronoberg in Sweden.
This study aimed, by analyzing the FWS project as an evidence-based case study to: (1) Show how strategies were developed and applied to meet sustainability requirements, as well as to inspire other municipalities to develop their long-term plans and strategies; (2) show if the FWS project of Växjö ensured water quality and quantity after ten years of operation; and (3) show if the investment in the FWS project economically affected consumers?
The study was guided by the following research questions:
What did the entire process, from planning to implementing the FWS project, look like?
What was the driving force for the building initiative of new WTP?
How was the project technically built and how does it function?
What was the impact of the investment on water fees?
2. Materials and Methods
An actual case of long-term developing plans, for municipal water management, was selected, studied, and analyzed. This case was the FWS of the Växjö municipality. It was chosen because it could reflect the capability of the municipality of Växjö to develop long-term plans, strategies, and processes within municipal W and WS services while many Swedish municipal W and WS organizations demonstrate shortcomings in developing long-term plans [4
]. Additionally, the FWS of Växjö is one of the most significant, developed long-term planning projects in Sweden.
In 2010 an article was published, explaining in detail seven different alternatives for the future water supply of the Växjö Municipality and describing the motivations behind the chosen option [10
]. Moreover, the study investigated the procedure of decision making and analyzed the assessment criteria to estimate the capacity of the Bergaåsen ridge [10
Thus, this study shows a clear case for evidence-based management in the case of the FWS of Växjö, after ten years of operation. Previous articles and the unpublished internal documents from the department of W and WS of the Växjö municipality have been reviewed. The included data covered the entire process, from decision making to implementation, as well as the technical structure and function of the system. For collecting data, the following resources were used: Decision support tools, governing documents from national authority and from the Växjö City Council, the Global Sustainable Development Goals that were adopted in 2015 (SDGs, 2015–2030), the Swedish Water Sustainability Index that was developed by the Swedish Water and Wastewater Association (SWWA) over several years, and national and local laws and regulations. In addition, data from previous interviews, surveys made by the Central Bureau of Statistics were studied. Collected data were used to design a new comprehensive interview for the study with a list of several key questions. The focus was on answering the research questions, to meet the study’s purpose, and to reach the study’s goal. Figure 2
shows the methodological structure of the study.
The new interviews were performed by the author and a technical assistant who recorded the interviews with two recording units. Interviews were semi-structured and were conducted with two key persons from the municipality of Växjö. The first was the former head of the W and WS department who had the role of deciding, planning, and implementing the Bergaåsens project. The second respondent was the present head of the department who has the function of managing the project within the desired norms and objectives. To prepare the respondents, a list of the questions was sent to them before the interview. Each question included a brief background, based on the studied documents and collected data (described in more detail above).
Interview questions were arranged and categorized in four main areas: (1) Organization and decision support strategies, (2) impact on water fees, (3) quality assurance, and (4) lessons and advice. Finally, interview transcripts were written by the author.
The results of this study were based on analyzing the answers from the interviews, data from collections resources, previous articles, and internal documents from the W and WS department in the Växjö municipality.
This study aimed to analyze the entire process of developing the FWS of the Växjö municipality as a case study to show how strategies could be developed and applied to meet sustainability requirements in long-term planning, to inspire other municipalities to develop their long-term strategies, and to show how a FWS project ensures water quality and quantity after ten years of operation. The economic impact on the residents was also evaluated. The results of the case study also included advice and lessons to be learned.
The project of Bergaåsen, the FWS of the Växjö municipality, was put into operation in 2009. Extensive semi-structured interviews with two key persons, namely the previous and current manager of the W and WS department, were performed to describe how the FWS was implemented. The research questions that guided the study were: (1) What was the driving force for building a new WTP, i.e., the Bergaåsen project? (2) What was the entire process from planning to implementation? (3) How was the project technically built to ensure the desired quality and quantity, and how did it function? (4) What was the economic impact on the residents?
The driving forces for initiating the FWS project were: (1) The poor condition of the previous WTP and several daily complaints from users about poor water quality; these helped bring the problem to politicians and raised awareness of the need to invest. (2) The employment of a new manager with good experience for the department of the W and WS. (3) Giving him the green light to improve the situation at virtually any price. This reflects that organizations with political influence and active ownership had a significant role in launching with an excellent start. Moreover, the W and WS sector in the Växjö municipality has no intention of changing their type of organization into another. This study shows that, in line with some previous studies [5
], this type of organization is suitable for long-term planning. The study is also in line with [4
], which stated that active ownership could create conditions for long-term sustainable responsibility on its own by employing strategically competent staff.
The study found that the role of the manager was significant and evident throughout the whole process, (1) starting from investigating and evaluating seven different alternatives within an area of 80–100 km around the center of Växjö; (2) choosing Bergaåsen, which was based on the result from all surveys, test pumping, and the groundwater model to simulate the flow and level variation at different apportions of abstraction and infiltration; and (3) investment in quality and innovative technology so that Bergaåsen became the first fully computerized gravel formation in Sweden, which means that groundwater level could be seen online, and the amount of water in the magazine could be controlled.
Regarding ensuring the quantity of supplied water in the long term, the results confirmed that the water supply from Bergaåsen is satisfactory both now and in the long term, and it is in line with forecasts made in 1999–2001. It was then designed for 30 years, but via planned measures, an extension of the withdrawal capacity for a 50-year perspective became possible. Dividing the area of Bergaåsen into several zones was one of these measures—there are zones for raw water abstraction and for managing aquifer recharge, and two zones are kept as future reserve areas for the production of drinking water. Moreover, inducing water from Lagan River to the groundwater was applied from the beginning to guarantee the quantity of supplied water in the long term. Since the forecast was made, about 20 years have passed, and if the project handles supply for 10–30 more years, then all expectations will have been achieved.
Results of the collected data from interviews, document analysis, and the sustainability index indicate that expectations will be achieved, even though the forecast was made for the expected population by 2030, which was 62,000–72,000 people. Now, in mid-2019, the number people who are supplied from Bergaåsen is already more than 83,000.
One of the essential criteria that measure the delivery security and good quality of drinking water are the number of complaints from users. There were only five-to-six complaints in 2018, and they were about brown water, which had nothing to do with the quality of the water but with corrosion residuals that had come loose in the pipeline. However, the water quality is good, and almost all parameters are under the accepted limits with very good margins. Moreover, there is no chlorine in the drinking water of Växjö because there is no bacterial growth in the pipelines due to less organic content and a low water temperature. The choice not to chlorinate in Bergaåsen was mainly based on the experiences that exist in Sweden that biologically stable water is gained after the infiltration of water through gravel formation.
The results of the SI survey for the Växjö municipality for parameters that deal with drinking water showed that “safe healthy water,” “security of delivery,” and “satisfied customers” had a green color for all the years that Växjö participated in the survey. Thus, results show (see Table 1
) that over 90% of water users were satisfied, and less than 3% were dissatisfied.
The economic impact on water users can be explained by analyzing the rate of increases in the fees paid for water consumption before the start of Bergaåsen until now. In general, water fees are composed of two parts: Consumption fees, and connection fees. However, this study showed that the rate of increase in the fixed portion of the consumption fees from 2008 to 2018 was 3.5% per year. This rate is a marginal and mostly due to inflation [33
] Meanwhile, the price of water consumption dropped from 10.25 SEK/m3
in 2008 to 9.6 SEK/m3
in 2018. (see Table 3
). Thus, even the average of annual consumption fee in the Växjö municipality for a typical type A house was 8% less than the average of the annual consumption fee for Swedish municipalities in 2018 for the same house type, as Table 4
and Table 5
Concerning the connection fees, the results showed that they have increased by 10% every year since 2011 except for a 26% increase in 2013–2014 (see Table 6
). According to Pehr Andersson 2018, this was because of some organizational changes 2013 in the Växjö municipality and the fact that the connection fees were then too low to entirely cover the costs of W and WS installation. These were then gradually corrected, and this had nothing to do with the Bergaåsen WTP.
Thus, investment impact of the Bergaåsen project did not cause an immediate increase in water fees for users for a few reasons. First, because of the particular financial plan that was applied, through which 120 million of the total 450 million SEK was secured and put in a fund for investment with the shortest depreciation period.
The second factor that had a positive effect on keeping the costs of the project down was market interest rates, which gradually dropped to below 2%. They were 7–8% during the calculation of the project.
The lessons and advice from Pehr Andersson that should be considered by managers when driving their organization forward are: (1) Tell politicians how bad the situation is and let them make decisions, as they are who meet voters; (2) it is essential that managers try to find internal and external experts who can think and act in new and innovative ways; and (3) they should not save on quality, instead aiming for as good a result as possible. Steve Karlsson admitted that he had considerable benefits from the top-quality WTP and the WWTP built by Pehr Andersson.
Two changes in the initial concept of processing technology that came about during these ten years of operation could also be considered as lessons. The first was discontinuing the use of CO2 and CaCO3 before re-infiltration. The second was replacing CO2 and Na2CO3 with NaOH tanks. They were initially chosen for adjusting the pH level and alkalinity in the clean water. These two changes were made because of problems caused by using Na2CO3 and CaCO3.
The Växjö municipality reflects an apparent ability to develop long-term strategies and plans through planning, processing, and implementing a project in this dimension, ensuring the future water supply in the Vaxjo and Alvesta municipalities.
In order to give a clearer picture of Växjö’s ability in developing strategic plans and steering long-term sustainable municipal W and WS management, supplementary studies should be done. Further studies could include how Växjö handles other central issues, e.g., whether they have done or have plans to adapt the W and WS systems to future climate change or if they have plans to meet requirements for wastewater treatment from drug residues and sludge handling.
The SI reveals that the Swedish municipality reflects a picture of a short planning horizon for renewal of the pipeline network. To add new findings to similar studies in W and WS, further research on how municipalities cope with this central issue is also needed.