News | October 31, 2018

Rising Wastewater Operating Costs Are Main Driver Of Water Tariff Growth In 2018

The results of GWI’s 2018 Global Water Tariff Survey have revealed that the average tariff for wastewater services grew by 4.1% between July 2017 and July 2018, compared with a 3.5% growth in the average water tariff over the same period. The survey results, drawing from data collected by GWI on water and wastewater tariffs across 512 cities in 191 countries, suggest rising wastewater operating costs are a key driver of the rate hikes seen across North America and Europe this year.

The average tariff for wastewater services grew by 4.1% between July 2017 and July 2018, compared with a 3.5% increase for the average water tariff in the same period, according to new data from released by Global Water Intelligence, as part of its 2018 Global Water Tariff Survey.

The 2018 survey is the most extensive one carried out GWI so far, calculating changes to the price of urban water and wastewater in 512 cities across 191 countries, based on a benchmark of an urban household of four using 15 m3/month. Analysis and commentaries on the survey results were released in an accompanying white paper, The Global Value of Water, published by GWI in partnership with Arup and The Global Water Leaders Group with insights from public policy advisors and utility leaders.

The white paper revealed that in all but two regions (the Middle East & North Africa and Eastern Europe & Central Asia) the average wastewater tariff grew more than that for water supply. GWI’s team of analysts found that many utilities are increasing wastewater service rates to fund sewerage network upgrades, as cities across the developed world act to address growing concerns over ageing infrastructure, stormwater management, and micropollutants this year.

US cities led the way, having historically found it easier to push through wastewater tariff hikes than raise water rates. GWI found that wastewater services now cost 139% of water services on average in the US, compared with just 88% in Western Europe. North America is now the most expensive region for utility wastewater, accounting for 7 of the top 10 cities with the highest wastewater tariffs recorded in the 2018 survey. Juneau, Alaska topped the survey with the most expensive wastewater tariff in 2018, at a cost of $6.55/m3.

Major urban wastewater tariff changes in 2018:

Top ten most expensive wastewater tariffs in 2018:

Wastewater tariff
Juneau, AK
Honolulu, HI
Portland, OR
Seattle, WA
Perth, Australia
Essen, Germany
Atlanta, GA
Kansas City, MO
Aarhus, Denmark
Washington DC
World Average

Top ten biggest wastewater tariff increases in 2018:


Increase since 2017

Cape Town, South Africa


Cairo, Egypt


Alexandria, Egypt


Durban, South Africa


Chennai, India


San Jose, Costa Rica


Tbilisi, Georgia


Pittsburgh, PA


Lima, Peru


Minsk, Belarus


*Cape Town’s average wastewater tariff rose because it is tied to drinking water tariffs in the city, which were increased as a punitive measure in the face of extreme drought.

Christopher Gasson, Publisher at GWI, commented: “Wastewater is more expensive to manage properly than drinking water, so wastewater tariffs ought to be higher than drinking water tariffs. There is problem however. Traditional sewer systems with wastewater treatment plants are unaffordable for low income communities and it is killing people. Most of those who die from water borne diseases do so because of bad wastewater management. It is the one area of the water cycle which needs a new paradigm.”

The survey recorded notable wastewater tariff hikes in several US cities this year, with 47 of the 70 US cities assessed by GWI experiencing increases in wastewater costs in 2018. Six of these cities saw double-digit percentage growth. Wastewater bills rose by 14.3% in Louisville, Kentucky for example, with the increased revenues from tariffs being channelled towards a special sewer repair fund. Meanwhile residents in Washington D.C saw their wastewater bills increase by 20.4%, resulting in a combined tariff of $6.46/m3, to keep in line with core operating costs and fund the upgrade of ageing sewer networks.

Genova, Italy experienced the highest wastewater tariff increase in Western Europe, with increased tariff revenues also being used to fund sewerage upgrades. Wastewater rates in Genova grew by 14.7% this year, fuelling an 11.7% increase in combined tariffs to $3.34/m3.

In the Icelandic capital city of Reykjavik, wastewater tariffs rose by 10.9% to $2.68/m3 to fund the $475-$760M of investment needed to raise the quality of the country’s sewer treatment to international standards.

However, despite the general trend of wastewater tariffs outpacing water tariffs in the Western World, the 2018 survey also recorded notable water and wastewater tariff rate drops in several European cities.

Malaga, Spain for instance, experienced the biggest decrease in wastewater tariffs in Western Europe as rates in the Spanish city fell by 4.3% this year. The move was a part of an overall drop in combined bills by 4.4% to $1.80/m3 following the removal of drought-mandated pricing after local reservoir levels recovered at the start of 2018.

As detailed in the white paper, water tariffs in Spain remain among the lowest in Europe however, due to a long-standing gap in investment into the Spanish water and wastewater sector.

The Global Value of Water and The Global Water Tariff Survey are available as part of a subscription to GWI Magazine, visit

Journalists with valid press credentials wishing to access the full dataset should request press access from Alex Shuttleworth on

The Global Value of Water is a Global Water Leaders Group (GWLG) white paper, containing detailed analysis of the results of TheGlobal Water Tariff Survey 2018 and insights from the following contributors:

  • Justin Abbott, Director, Global Water Skills Leader, Arup
  • Dr Rolfe Eberhard, Independent Public Policy Advisor
  • Dr Mark Fletcher, Director, Global Water Leader Arup
  • Siegfried Gendries, Independent Consultant
  • Steve Lloyd, Director, UKIMEA Advisory Services Leader, Arup
  • Adam Lovell, Executive Director of the Water Services Association of Australia
  • Dr William T. Muhairwe, Executive Director of the Global Water Leaders Group and founder of 2ML Consulting
  • Professor Howard M. Neukrug, Senior Advisor to the Global Water Leaders Group and former CEO of Philadelphia Water
  • Wang Qiang, Senior Supervisor at Shanghai Chengtou Corporation

The Global Water Tariff Survey is the leading repository of global water tariff data and analysis, featuring water & wastewater tariff profiles from over 510 locations. It is updated annually by Global Water Intelligence (GWI).

The Global Value of Water and The Global Water Tariff Survey are available to all GWI Magazine subscribers who can download it from To purchase a subscription to GWI Magazine, contact

About The Global Water Intelligence (GWI)
Global Water Intelligence (GWI) researches and publishes business data and information about the water markets worldwide. Based in Oxford, UK it also has offices in Singapore and USA (Austin, Texas) and has researchers and office staff in many other countries. It publishes three subscription titles and a free weekly GWI Briefing email ( and two market intelligence and forecasting platforms. It also organises two major financial conferences for the water industry each year: the American Water Summit in Autumn and the Global Water Summit in Spring. GWI was awarded the Queen’s Award for Enterprise in 2011.

Source: The Global Value of Water