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Japan: Water Supply Act Amended

(Dec. 18, 2018) In an effort to counter issues faced by water supply businesses arising from both a decrease in water demand caused by Japan’s population decline and a decrease in the number of aging water facilities, the Diet (Japanese Parliament) has passed an act that amends the Water Supply Act. (Act No. 92 of 2018, Purpose of the Act, KANPOU (official gazette) extra ed. No. 274 at 6 (Dec. 12, 2018), Kanpou website (in Japanese).)

The amended Act obligates the national government to set a basic policy to address the water supply companies’ problems. (Id. art. 5-2.) The Act also provides that prefectural governments should establish a plan to strengthen the water supply infrastructure and promote cooperation among local governments. (Id. arts. 5-3 & 5-4.)

Under the amended Act, the Minister of Health, Labour and Welfare is to establish standards of water- supply facility maintenance. (Id. art. 22-2.) Water supply businesses are obligated to maintain facility ledgers. (Id. art. 22-3.) Licensed water-supply-facility contractors must renew their licenses every five years. (Id. art. 25-3-2.)

The controversial aspect of the amended Act is that it allows local governments to sell the rights to manage water supply services for as long as 20 years. (Id. art. 24-4.) Critics are worried that the amended Act would effectively lead to privatization of the water business, which may not be conducive to providing reliable responses in times of disaster. (Japan Enacts Law Allowing Private Firms to Operate Water Services, MAINICHI (Dec. 6, 2018).)