New global report: Huge variations in water use around the world

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Household consumption of water around the world varies from 28 to 631 litres per day. This is one of the many findings in a global report launched today by the International Water Association (IWA).

Credit: Queensland University of Technology

By presenting tariff structures in a transparent way, we hope that this report provides some insight to water managers.

The 12th edition of the International Statistics for Water Services 2016, published today in connection with the World Water Congress and Exhibition in Brisbane, Australia (09-14 October). For the first time an interactive statistics portal allows users to graphically compare individual cities’ differences within water abstraction, consumption, tariff structure and regulation of water services.

The portal allows users to see how specific water consumption for households differ between Los Angeles, New York and Washington DC; or the differences between Amsterdam and Yokohama. Users can view data on these differences by looking at how water services are financed, how various water tariff structures are set up, which measurements of performance service providers use, how they analyze their micro-economics and manage their services.

The portal includes data from all five continents, 40 countries and 170 cities. The data shows several key trends
1. Household consumption of potable water varies from 28 to 631 litres per day per capita, a factor of 20.
2. Water taxes vary. Taxes form part of the water bill and varies between 0 and 28% of the total bill.
3. No single tariff structure is trending worldwide. Fixed charges versus variable charges, environmental charges or not, they all have different advantages and disadvantages around the world.
4. Water consumption remains subsidized in many countries and cities.
5. Water pricing is a useful tool for reducing water consumption in times of water scarcity, keeping in mind that the price elasticity for potable water is, in general, very low or even zero.

“Water is a human right, while wastewater is not. When we look at pricing trends, we are seeing 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, which is not a human right,” says Ed Smeets, Chairman of the IWA Specialist Group Statistics and Economics.

“One of water managements’ goals should be to make the total cost and recovery of water visible so that we as customers will have a better understanding of our own responsibilities to optimize usage,” Smeets continued. “By presenting tariff structures in a transparent way, we hope that this report provides some insight to water managers.”

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