About International Statistics for Water Services

This report is now in its fourteenth edition, and this update contains data from 39 countries and more than 170 cities worldwide. This report enables high-level comparisons concerning abstraction, consumption, tariff structure and regulation of water services globally.

These data provide a starting point for debate on how services can be or should be financed, on the importance of water tariff structures, topics like consumptions patterns, taxes, leakages, etc. More in general this information can help organizations set up strategies from a holistic management perspective.

Water under pressure

Water price structure and water pricing are not stand-alone mechanisms to ensure sustainable water use. In fact, sustainability can only be obtained by change of the customer behavior directly linked to the awareness of the scarcity of water resources all over the world. The one and best solution of an ideal water tariff structure does not exist. But we can state that water companies, par definition, are so-called “fixed cost” companies.

As a consequence, the fixed cost should play a major role in the discussion about water billing. Of course, we have also to take into account that the water bill should reflect the variable costs of a water company, “total cost recovery” being the ultimate goal. 

The water footprint: a huge concern?

The consumption of potable water is widely variable, with a large gap between cities in our research. Household consumption per capita varies from 60 liters per capita per day in Malindi, Kenya, to 356 liters per capita per day in Mar del Plata, Argentina: a factor of 6. Water abstraction per country is also widely spread, ranging from 14m3 per capita per year in Kenya to 517 m3 per capita per year in Russia.

A very important factor in the discussion of affordability of the water bill is the global fiscal pressure in a country. Although taxes (like VAT) are an important part of the water bill, there is no standardization. There is a wide range from 0% to 27%  for the VAT in the mentioned countries. Also, a significant trend in a number of countries is a divergence of the VAT charged on water and wastewater – a low VAT for potable water and a higher VAT for wastewater collection and treatment. This stems from the desire to keep water bills affordable, as potable water is a human right.

In one-third of the cities surveyed, the environmental charges (= total of sewerage and wastewater treatment charges) exceeds 50% of the total water bill. This percentage is still raising. This helps to explain the remarkably high spread of the total water bill for 200 m³ across the 172 cities, from 24 US$ in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to almost 2 344 US$ in Moscow, Russia.

The upcoming trend of higher VAT on wastewater in more countries reflects the fact that on one hand, the total cost of wastewater is also really much higher than the total cost of potable water stricto sensu, and on the other hand the higher VAT being used as an incentive to reduce the environmental footprint of wastewater. But if this is really the purpose, it should be clearly communicated to the customer. The affordability and the ability to pay for the total water bill always need to be considered in this framework.

Whereas VAT is a fiscal tool of the government, water companies also have a major mission to help consumers to reduce their wastewater footprint, by promoting the circular use of water and wastewater. Conserving and protecting the scarce water resources we have today is critical to preserve them for future generations. We all must work together to respond to the challenges associated with climate change. 

Rising costs and keeping water affordable

Many water companies and authorities are currently facing major challenges in the delivery of water and sanitation services. Rapid urbanisation, aging infrastructure, water resources scarcity, poor water quality and network losses are some of the challenges that they are facing. Addressing these challenges requires new investments resulting in increasing costs and often these (replacement) investments are not related to new clients.

Although the bill of water and sanitation services is usually relatively low as compared to average household incomes in the most upper-middle- and high-income countries, concerns have arisen on the affordability for the poorer segments of the population. The latest data shows that tariffs have generally increased between 2017 and 2019. The median increase in water and sanitation fees for 200 m3 of water measured in local currencies was 3,4%. Yet in 33 cities fees for 200 m3 decreased, while in 99 cities fees increased and in 8 cities they stayed the same. The median increase in water and sanitation fees for 100 m3 of water measured in local currencies was 2,3%.

This difference of increase for higher consumption could lead to the conclusion that tariffs became more progressive to promote water conservation, but perhaps it is too early to conclude. It would be nice if this tendency should be continued in the future.

The median share of annual income spent on water and sanitation services for 200m3 was 2,9% in 2019. The affordability of water and sanitation services for low-income households can be measured as the number of hours someone needs to work at the minimum wage to afford a bill for 200 m3 annual consumption. For the cities in the database, the median number of minimum wage hours for 200 m3 of potable water is 47 hours. For sanitation fees for 200 m3 the median is 39,4 hours. The number of hours is generally higher in middle-income countries than in high-income countries and there is a large variation between cities: for total water and sanitation fees, one needs to work between 22,9 (Taipei) and 258,8 (Coyhaique, Chile) hours. Yet, one should take note that cities with a high number of hours could have low minimum wages and have other ways to make water and sanitation fees affordable for low-income families, such as subsidies or social rates that are not reflected in the standard tariffs. Tariffs and affordability are hotly debated and the IWA statistics database could contribute to getting comparable insights across a large number of cities.

A shortcut to smart technologies

One of the ultimate goals of water management is total cost recovery, however this needs to be considered in the perspective of an affordable water bill.

From the point of view of asset management of a water company there is a lot of value going on. Every percentage of gain in efficiency could have a beneficial effect on the water production cost and on the water bill. New disruptive technologies like intelligent metering and smart water networks will lead to beneficial effects, and will allow, for example, to more correct sizing of the water assets or to lower the non revenue water by detecting leakages.

Today, emerging technologies of smart metering based on IoT will accelerate the way to a smart water network. Current daily challenges such as pressure losses, fraud or reverse flow, to name a few, can be detected in real time at the office, even before the customer is affected.

About International Statistics for Water Services

The Copenhagen edition 2020 of the ‘International Statistics for Water Services’ was initially planned for release at the IWA Water World Congress (18-23 October 2020), but due to the Covid-19 crisis the congress is postponed to September 2022. Nevertheless, it is the main goal to present these Statistics every 2 years, therefore we prefer a virtual launch. It 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) and Ann Bijnens, project coordinator of these statistics (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. Our Specialist Group on Statistics and Economics aims to provide a forum to debate how utilities are financed, how their various water tariff structures are, which indicators of performance they use, how they manage efficiency, etc. To achieve these goals, workshops and seminars are organized annually, and papers and books are written with the scope of sharing information and experiences that focus both on fundamental and on practical issues to be considered for economic and responsible behavior of water utilities.

Ed Smeets
Ed Smeets
IWA Fellow and Chair of IWA’s Specialist Group on 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 Copenhagen 2020

By means of 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 an update of data from 39 countries and more than 170 cities.

This Copenhagen 2020 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 2014, 2016 and 2018 are included. The information about tariffs is based on the consumption of 100 m³ and 200 m³ in 2015, 2017 and 2019. Concerning water charges, making time series is rather difficult, because of variation in exchange rate in time, when recalculating the local valuta in US dollars.

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 Copenhagen statistics and build your own graphs. We hope that the facts and figures will add a plus value to your job. Keep in mind that this survey is on a world scale and that you can easily down drill to your country, capital or a particular city.

Become part of the project

 The most difficult challenge in making this report is to find the right contact person(s) for the countries. This single point of contact must be able to deliver, at the same time, data for the water sector and some country indicators. If your country is not listed in the Copenhagen 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 biennial statistics of water services worldwide. To ‘keep up with the times’ we are proud to present the digital edition of the Statistics for the third time, which offers more possibilities than ever before.
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 who provided us the data.
Thanks to the IWA Operations Office in London and AALPHA in India for their support and assistance.

Especially in these times of COVID-19-crisis, we understand that collecting data is more complicated. Thanks to all water professionals who helped obtain the data for this survey. Thanks to their effort we are able to give a valuable overview of important aspects of water services worldwide.


Albania Ndricim Shani, Water Regulatory Authority
Argentina J. M. Koutoudjian, Nolasco Associates (Water, Environment & Business Consulting)
Armenia A. Sergoyan, Water Committee of the Ministry of Territorial Administration and Infrastructures of The Republic of Armenia
Austria G. Müller, OVGW
Belgium C. Legros, Belgaqua and A. Bijnens, De Watergroep
Brazil C. Rosito, ABES – Brazilian Association of Water and Sanitation Engineering
Canada D. Main and A. Kolesov, AECOM
Chile R. Farias Flores, Super intendencia de Servicios Sanitarios – SISS
Hong Kong, China J. TC Louie, Water Supplies Department Hong Kong SAR Government
Chinese Taiwan S-L. Lo, Chinese Taiwan National Committee
Cyprus P. Potamou, Limassol Water Board
Denmark T. Sorensen, Danish Water and Wastewater Association
Finland M. Rontu, Finnish Water Utilities Association
France S. Pouradier-Duteil, Veolia Eau France
Germany T. Herkner, Bundesverband der Energie- und Wasserwirtschaft e.V.
Greece N. Safarikas, G. Safarikas and C. Safarikas, Helenic Union of Municipal Enterprises for Water Supply and Sewerage
Hungary G. Patkó, MaViz and M. Stregova
India D. Hanumantha Chary, Indian Water Works Association
Iran A.R.A. Motlagh, Mahab Ghodss consulting Eng.
Israel O. Slepner, Governmental Authority for Water and Sewage
Italy R. Parena and R. Sciolotto, SMAT S.p.A.
Japan M. Shibuya, Japan Water Works Association
Kenya E. Wambui Mwangi, Nairobi City Water & Sewerage Company
Macao, China N. Kuan, Macao Water
Malaysia R. Mahmod, The Malaysian Water Association
Malta A. Sammut, Regulator for Energy and Water Services
Netherlands P.J.J.G. Geudens, Vewin
Norway A. Haarr, Norwegian Water and Wastewater Ass. BA, Norsk Vann
Poland P. Bartoszczuk, Warshau School of Economics
Portugal F. Ruivo and R. Rodrigues, ERSAR
Romania S. Lacatusu, Romanian Water Association and D. Popa, Water company Brasov
Russia A. Epshtein, Russian Water and Wastewater Association
Singapore W. Tan, PUB, Singapore’s National Water Agency
South Korea Z. Yun, Korean Society on Water Environment
Spain A. Guerra-Librero Castilla, AEAS
Sweden M. Bäckström and G. Svensson, Swedish Water and Wastewater Association
Switzerland M. Freiburghaus, Swiss Gas and Water Industry Association
Turkey O. Yenigun, Turkish National Committee on Water Pollution Research and Control
United States of America R. Craley, American Water Works Association and Raftelis Financial Consultants



Interpreting the graphs correctly:

  • The explanatory notes give more background information to interpret the data in the right way.
  • All data are on country and city level, NOT on a company level.
  • All financial data are converted to US$, the latest known exchange rate of December 2019.
  • The exchange rates vary in time. Therefore it is not possible to compare charges in time.

Tips and tricks

  • There is a wide range of statistics from abstraction to charges – Select the Statistic Type of data from the list.
  • Depending on the statistic type, you can make a selection of a volume for 100 m³ or 200 m³ and for the years between 2014 and 2019 – Choose the Volume/Year.
  • If you want to compare, please select all cities and/or all countries in the pop-up menu or mark the preferred selection – Select the Countries/Cities.
  • Click the Generate button to see the data you’ve selected.
  • You can Sort by ascending or descending on a specific parameter.
  • By hovering on the bar, you can read the value.
  • By hovering over the country/city, you can consult the available explanatory notes. Extensive notes can be consulted by clicking to view more details.
  • Click the Share button to save the results or share them with others.

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