About International Statistics for Water Services

This report is now in it’s twelfth edition, and this year contains data from 40 countries and 170 cities. For the first time we have been able to gather data from all five continents, a landmark as the report aims to enable high-level comparisons concerning abstraction, consumption, tariff structure and regulation of water services globally.

The data provide a starting point for debate on how services are financed, how various water tariff structures are set up, which measurements of performance service providers use, how they analyze their microeconomics, and how they manage their services efficiently.

Water Pricing, a useful tool for managing demand?

The universal ideal of total cost recovery for potable water production and distribution is not a reality on the ground; water consumption remains subsidized in many countries and cities.

However, one of the ultimate goals of water management should be making visible the total cost, and recovery, of the water we all use so that customers will have a better understanding of their own responsibilities to optimize their usage. By representing tariff structures in a transparent way, we hope this report provides some insight to water managers.

A significant trend in a number of countries is the use of water pricing as a tool to reduce water use in times of water scarcity. However, we must keep in mind that the price elasticity for potable water is, in general, very low or even zero.

However, water pricing alone cannot be the tool that ensures sustainable water use. This is only one of the tools available to water managers, regulators and politicians to reach the goal of sustainable water use. Perhaps the most important tool, and one often overlooked, is the behaviour of customers, and their awareness of the true value of the water resources they use. Even in regions with water scarcity we still have to invest in changing this customer behaviour.

Water is a human right, wastewater is not

The consumption of potable water is widely variable, with a large gap between cities in our research. Household consumption per capita varies from 28 to 631 liters per day, a factor of 20. Taxes (VAT) form part of the water bill people receive, and this varies between zero and 28 percent. This raises the question whether very high taxes on potable water are ethical when water is a human right. High taxes on potable water exacerbate constraints on affordability and the ability to pay. One solution – zero taxation – is not as simple as it at first appears, as the affordability of the water bill must be considered within the broader context of local direct and indirect taxes, both historical and existing, in a particular country. This, and a desire to keep water bills affordable, is driving a new trend: a divergence of the VAT charged on water and wastewater: a low VAT for potable water (which is a human right) and a higher VAT for wastewater collection and treatment.

Total cost recovery, the key to the future

The affordability of water services must be combined with operating water services in a sustainable way. Developing and maintaining the assets for water production and distribution are capital intensive. This presents a challenge for both service providers and regulators to ensure that total cost recovery on investments is compatible with an affordable water bill. Special attention must be paid to social corrections of the water tariffs where necessary.

Pricing policies, a matter of common sense

One thing is clear from the research, no single water tariff structure is trending worldwide. There is no magic bullet water managers can rely upon. Increasing blocks, decreasing blocks, fixed charges versus variable charges, environmental charges or not, they all have different advantages and disadvantages around the world. Perhaps the most we can say is that the ideal tariff structure should seek to find a balance between the economic, environmental and social demands placed upon water resources and supplies.

About International Statistics for Water Services

The Brisbane edition 2016 of the ‘International Statistics for Water Services’ released at the IWA Water World Congress (9-14 October 2016) is an initiative from the IWA Specialist Group on Statistics and Economics (chaired by Ed Smeets, The Netherlands) and coordinated by the Working Group Statistics (chaired by Jan Hammenecker, commercial director of De Watergroep, Belgium).

About the IWA Specialist Group Statistics and Economics

The International Water Association (IWA) is a worldwide network of professionals, which aims to exchange scientific and professional knowledge, provided by academics and water managers, covering many aspects of the water cycle. We aim to provide a forum to debate how utilities are financed, their various water tariff structures, which measurement of performance they use, how they analyze their micro economics, how they manage efficiency. To achieve this goal, IWA organizes international conferences supported by specialist groups and technical and scientific teams.

Ed Smeets
Ed Smeets
Chairman of the Specialist Group Statistics and Economics
Jan Hammenecker
Jan Hammenecker
Leader of the Working Group Statistics and commercial director of De Watergroep, Belgium
Ann Bijnens
Ann Bijnens
Statistics expert from De Watergroep, Belgium

About the Statistics report, edition Brisbane 2016

By means of biannual international surveys, the Working Group Statistics provides professional information on water abstraction, consumption, charges and regulation on country and on city-levels. So, we are glad to present this edition of our ‘International Statistics for Water Services’ with data of 40 countries and 170 cities.

This Brisbane 2016 report, in particular the charges and consumption sections, focuses on water consumption of households. All the definitions of the several parameters have been discussed and fine-tuned by the members of the Working Group Statistics. For the quantitative information on population, production volumes etc., the years 2010, 2012 and 2014 are included. The information about tariffs is based on the consumption of 100 m³ and 200 m³ in 2015.

The water prices do not necessarily reflect the full cost of water services, because some parts of the costs may be covered by sources other than the customer. In some cases for example, there can be a political or social motivation to ensure that water is supplied at a socially acceptable price. Of course there are many other factors affecting price levels, but these were out of scope for this survey.

You are invited to have a closer look at the Brisbane statistics and build your own graphs. I hope that the facts and figures will add a plus value for your own job. Keep in mind that this survey is on world scale and that you can compare your own water business at a high level.

Become part of the project

The most difficult challenge in making this report is to find the right contact point for each country. This single point of contact must be able to deliver both data for the water sector and some country indicators. If your country is not listed in the Brisbane report and if you want to volunteer to provide us with the valuable data of your country, please let us know and send us your contact details to IWA@dewatergroep.be

The making of…

Renato Parena, honorary chairman of the Specialist Group, for the Italian water services, launched the concept of the survey in the early 1990’s. Since that time we have been producing the biannual statistics of water services worldwide. To ‘keep up with the times’ we are proud to present the first digital edition of the Statistics, which offers more possibilities than ever before.

We enjoyed the making of the Brisbane survey more than ever. Thanks to IWA, we have moved to a digital publishing platform. This will enable greater access to the statistics and permit us to update the data on a regularly base. Our main concern is the reliability of the data and the quality control. Of course it is evident that for the data quality we depend on the single points of contact that provided us the data.

Thanks to the IWA Operations Office in the Netherlands and the P&Q digital agency in Serbia for their support and assistance.

Thanks to all water professionals who helped obtain the data for this survey. It is thanks to their efforts that we are able to give a valuable overview of important aspects of water services worldwide.
Australia C. Beesley and M. Hardy, Bureau of Meteorology of Australia
Belgium C. Legros, Belgaqua and A. Bijnens, De Watergroep
Brazil C. Rosito, SNIS
Canada D. Main and A. Kolesov, AECOM
Chile R. Farias Flores, Super intendencia de Servicios Sanitarios – SISS
China T. Li, IWA-China Regional Office
Hong Kong, China S-L. Lo, Chinese Taiwan National Committee
Cyprus P. Potamou, Limassol Water Board
Denmark T. Sorensen, Danish Water and Wastewater
England&Wales K. Ridout, Ofwat
Finland M. Rontu, Finnish Water Utilities Association
France S. Pouradier-Duteil, Veolia
Germany T. Herkner, Bundesverband der Energie- und Wasserwirtschaft e.V.
Greece S. Nikolaos and S. Georgios, Helenic Union of Municipal Enterprises for Water Supply and Sewerage
Hungary B. Balazs, Kaposvar Waterworks (member of Hungarian Water Association)
Iceland L. Georgsdottir, National Enery Authority of Iceland
Indonesia D. Riantara, PERPAMSI (Indonesian Water Supply Association)
Japan M. Shibuya, Japan Water Works Association
Kenya E. Wambui Mwangi, Nairobi City Water & Sewerage Company
Macao, China N. Kuan, Macao Water
Malta A. Sammut, regulator for Energy and Water Services
Mauritius K. Heeramun, Central Water Authority and R. Damoree, Wastewater Management Authority
Mexico R. Olivares, IWA representacion Mexico
Namibia C.K. Munikasu, Ministry of Agriculture, Water & Forestry
Netherlands P.J.J.G. Geudens, Vewin and G.E. Oosterom, Rioned
Norway A. Haarr, Norwegian Water and Wastewater Ass. BA, Norsk Vann and O. Ryenbakken, Water and Sewerage Works City of Oslo
Poland P. Bartoszczuk, Warshau School of Economics
Portugal D. Alves, ERSAR
Romania S. Lacatusu, Romanian Water Association and D. Popa, Water company Brasov
Russia A. Epshtein, Russian Water and Wastewater Association
Scotland (UK) S. Petch, Drinking Water Quality Regulator
South Korea Z. Yun, Korean Society on Water Environment
Spain A. Castilla, AEAS
Switzerland M. Freiburghaus, SVGW
Tanzania M. Kabuzya, Association of Tanzanian Water Suppliers
Thailand A. Anukularmphai, Provincial Waterworks Authority & Metropolitan Waterworks Authority & Wastewater Management Authority
Uganda G. Katongole, National Water and Sewerage Corporation
USA R. Craley, American Water Works Association and Raftelis Financial Consultants
Zambia K. Hara and K. Chitumbo, National Water Supply and Sanitation Council

Interpreting the graphs correctly:

  • When you build your own graph, what information are you looking for? Not all visualizations give a good interpretation and choosing the right graph in the statistic type selector is important.

  • All data are on country and city level, NOT on a company level.

  • All financial data are converted to US$, exchange rate December 31st, 2015.

  • The exchange rates vary in time.

Tips and tricks

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