Water Deregulation in Select European Countries

In Austria, the assets are owned by the municipalities and regional governments, and operations are either conducted directly or by management companies.

In Belgium, 6 large provincial inter-municipally owned water companies’ supply 90% of the water; municipalities and communes own small companies. Water management is mostly public, but waste is sub-contracted. The arrangements differ in the two regions and Brussels city.

In Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden municipalities own assets, or in some cases have “corporatised” them. A high proportion of water mains leak and 60% of sewers. Water loss is high.

In France, municipalities own the water and waste assets and the responsibility lies with the municipalities to manage or have the services managed. There is some direct municipal management but three large private water companies Suez, Veolia and SAUR account for 92% of the private water market. They are the largest water companies in the world.

In Germany, over 12,000 different municipally owned management units provide water and sanitation services. Water and sanitation services are predominantly run by the public sector. The municipal authorities have the choice of how their region’s water services will be managed. There is a mix of direct management and contract management by large water companies. The level of private management is about 30% in the water supply sector and 10% in wastewater.

In Greece, 142 Municipal Enterprises of Water Supply & Sewerage (DEYA) are public corporations which carry out the WS and WWS functions of municipalities, communes or associations, which have been reduced from 227 as part of recent reform of the sector. 1,500 water associations serve villages, communities and towns. The two leading companies, EYDAP in Athens and EYATH in Thessaloniki have been privatised as part of recent austerity measures.

In Ireland, direct responsibility for water supply and sewerage is divested locally to 36 sanitation and water departments of 52 local and county councils. 5,500 group schemes operate in rural areas.

In Italy, with 20 regions, 103 provinces and 8,101 municipalities, the Italian water and waste sector is in transition, both in ownership and management. The Galli Law was enacted in 1994 and the highly fragmented system of over 7,000 local supply companies, Aziendi, are being rationalised into about 100 consolidated authorities, based on natural catchment areas.

In the Netherlands, the public water supply is the responsibility of 11 water supply companies’ majority owned by individual provinces and municipalities. There is an official ban on privatisation of water supply companies, enacted in 2004.