Highest Water Prices in the World

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According to a recent survey by the NUS Consulting Group, studying water rates around the world, rates have increased in 12 of the 14 countries surveyed. Water prices in Denmark were by far the most expensive.

With prices of USD 6.7 per cubic meter, Danish water costs almost one dollar more per measure than in second-placed Scotland, and USD 6.20 more than in Mexico, the cheapest on the list.
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Water rates in the United States were among the lowest in the countries surveyed, and were one half to one third the rates charged in most European countries.

Carl-Emil Larsen, DANVA
Carl-Emil Larsen, DANVA

Head of the Danish water and wastewater supply association (DANVA) Carl-Emil Larsen, however, claimed that Denmark has long-standing policy that all costs related to fresh water and wastewater disposal should be paid by the consumer. “They don’t do that in countries like Italy,” he said.

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Most countries included within the survey reported water prices increasing above their respective rates of inflation. South Africa had the largest percentage increase in pricing with a jump of 20.4 percent in the price of water from last year.

Water runs from a tap in a building in Osaka on March 23, 2011. Tokyo on March 23 warned that radioactive iodine over twice the safe level for infants had been detected in its tap water due to the disaster at a quake-hit nuclear plant northeast of Japan's capital. The news compounded fears over the fallout from the crippled Fukushima power station that also led the government to ban farm produce from areas near the charred complex, where emergency crews were battling to prevent a meltdown. AFP PHOTO / VOISHMEL (Photo credit should read VOISHMEL/AFP/Getty Images)

The OECD agrees with the Danish association DANVA. “High water costs can be beneficial to the environment, theorizing that when consumers pay high costs they appreciate the scarcity of the resource and its true value,” claims the organization.

While the world’s population tripled in the 20th century, the use of renewable water resources has grown six-fold. Within the next fifty years, the world population will increase by another 40 to 50 %. This population growth – coupled with industrialization and urbanization – will result in an increasing demand for water and will have serious consequences on the environment.

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Europe has the highest water costs in the world and this trend is likely to continue. Germany and Denmark pay the highest prices for water on the Continent, at $1.78 and $1.72 per cubic meter, respectively. Rates in the United Kingdom, France, Belgium and The Netherlands were all above $1 per cubic meter of water.

Larsen claims high prices leads to greater water conservation. “We can see that Danes are saving more water,” states Larsen. “Over the past 20 years we’ve seen a considerable drop in water consumption, so expensive water does lead us to conserve it.”

Industrial water consumption
Industrial water consumption

Having enjoyed success in deregulating their electricity and gas industries, some countries are grappling with this issue in the area of water. The United Kingdom is undertaking a pilot program and Germany is active in exploring ways of deregulating its market. However, water is one of the most politically sensitive subjects and quality supply, not price, remains the paramount concern.

Danish statistics on water consumption in dairy farms, agriculture and slaughterhouses have shown that consumption has fallen dramatically, but that these high consumption groups are now feeling the economic strain of the prices, with many saying they are not prepared to tolerate the charges any longer.

”We’re at our pain threshold,” said Danish Agricultural and Food Council environmental manager Annette Christiansen. “The food industry can’t save any more water than we’re already doing now. The difference in water prices between Denmark and other countries is distorting competition within the food industry.”

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The NUS Consulting Group is an independent cost control and consulting organization operating in 16 countries around the world through 11 wholly owned subsidiaries. More information on the organization and its water rates survey may be obtained by visiting the company’s website at www.nusconsulting.com.

Highest Water Prices in the World, written by Tor Kjolberg