EurEau publishes 2020 edition of report on governance of water services in Europe

The European Federation of National Associations of Water Services (EurEau) has published the 2020 edition of its report “The governance of water services in Europe”. The report seeks to provide a simple but comprehensive view of water service governance in Europe and offers a snapshot of the current situation in the 29 EurEau member countries. It also illustrates the diversity of management models, organisational structures, tasks and responsibilities of the players involved at the different levels of governance (EU, national, regional and local). The report highlights the fact that the price of urban water in Spain continues to be amongst the lowest in Europe. It also points to the heterogeneity of European water tariffs and failure to comply with the principle of “cost recovery” as set out in the Water Framework Directive (WFD).

As an associate member of EurEau and a member of its Executive Committee, the Spanish Association of Water Supply and Sanitation (AEAS) was responsible for reporting data from Spain for the drafting of this report.

This report seeks to provide a simple but comprehensive view of water service governance in Europe and offers a snapshot of the current situation in the 29 EurEau member countries.  It also illustrates the diversity of management models, organisational structures, tasks and responsibilities of the players involved at the different levels of governance (EU, national, regional and local).  

The report is the result of large-scale collaboration amongst European utilities and its chief aim is to help stakeholders to have a better understanding of water services governance in Europe. The document underlines the fact that water services are essential, that they support the sustainable development of our societies and are fundamental to realising the ambition of the EU Green Deal and the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

The report outlines that the way in which water services are organised in Europe is the result of historical and cultural factors that reflect the diversity of European countries. It distinguishes between 4 management models in Europe: direct public management, delegated public management, delegated private management and direct private management. The latter system is in place in very few European countries (England, Wales, and the Czech Republic) and the most common model in the majority of European countries, and in Spain, is a mix of the first three models, with a general trend, compared to twenty years ago, towards public and private delegated management. The trend towards delegated private management is driven by the greater technical expertise and specialisation required in the provision of these services.

The report also highlights the fact that the price of urban water in Spain continues to be amongst the lowest in Europe. It also points to the heterogeneity of European water tariffs and failure to comply with the principle of “cost recovery” as set out in the Water Framework Directive (WFD). The report also concludes that while Water tariffs contribute to recovering the costs almost everywhere in Europe, in some countries costs are still covered by a mix of tariffs, transfers and taxes (3Ts). It also points to the fact that the tariff structure differs from country to country, but in the majority of cases, the tariff is made up of a fixed component and a variable component, as is the case in Spain.