Water industry

Water industry

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The water industry provides drinking water
Drinking water
Drinking water or potable water is water pure enough to be consumed or used with low risk of immediate or long term harm. In most developed countries, the water supplied to households, commerce and industry is all of drinking water standard, even though only a very small proportion is actually...

 and wastewater
Wastewater
Wastewater is any water that has been adversely affected in quality by anthropogenic influence. It comprises liquid waste discharged by domestic residences, commercial properties, industry, and/or agriculture and can encompass a wide range of potential contaminants and concentrations...

 services (including sewage treatment
Sewage treatment
Sewage treatment, or domestic wastewater treatment, is the process of removing contaminants from wastewater and household sewage, both runoff and domestic. It includes physical, chemical, and biological processes to remove physical, chemical and biological contaminants...

) to residential, commercial, and industrial sectors of the economy. The water industry includes manufacturers and suppliers of bottled water
Bottled water
Bottled water is drinking water packaged in plastic or glass water bottles. Bottled water may be carbonated or not...

. Water privatization
Water privatization
Water privatization is a short-hand for private sector participation in the provision of water services and sanitation, although sometimes it refers to privatization and sale of water resources themselves . As water services are seen as such a key public service, water privatization is often...

 by companies in the water industry is becoming an issue as water security
Water security
Water security is the capacity of a population to ensure that they continue to have access to potable water. It is an increasing concern arising from population growth, drought, climate change, oscillation between El Nino and La Nina effects, urbanisation, salinity, upstream pollution,...

 threatens the global community.

Overview


The modern water industry operates sophisticated and costly water and wastewater networks and sewage treatment plants, and typically consumes 1-2% of GDP
Gross domestic product
Gross domestic product refers to the market value of all final goods and services produced within a country in a given period. GDP per capita is often considered an indicator of a country's standard of living....

. It is generally a natural monopoly
Natural monopoly
A monopoly describes a situation where all sales in a market are undertaken by a single firm. A natural monopoly by contrast is a condition on the cost-technology of an industry whereby it is most efficient for production to be concentrated in a single form...

, and as a result is usually run as a public service
Public services
Public services is a term usually used to mean services provided by government to its citizens, either directly or by financing private provision of services. The term is associated with a social consensus that certain services should be available to all, regardless of income...

 by a public utility
Public utility
A public utility is an organization that maintains the infrastructure for a public service . Public utilities are subject to forms of public control and regulation ranging from local community-based groups to state-wide government monopolies...

 which is owned by local or national government. In some countries, notably France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

, the UK
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 and the Czech Republic
Czech Republic
The Czech Republic is a landlocked country in Central Europe. The country is bordered by Poland to the northeast, Slovakia to the east, Austria to the south, and Germany to the west and northwest....

, the water industry is regulated
Regulation
Regulation is administrative legislation that constitutes or constrains rights and allocates responsibilities. It can be distinguished from primary legislation on the one hand and judge-made law on the other...

 but services are largely operated by private companies with exclusive right
Exclusive right
In Anglo-Saxon law, an exclusive right is a de facto, non-tangible prerogative existing in law to perform an action or acquire a benefit and to permit or deny others the right to perform the same action or to acquire the same benefit. A "prerogative" is in effect an exclusive right...

s for a limited period and a well-defined geographical space.

Organizational structure


There are a variety of organizational structures for the water industry, with countries usually having one dominant traditional structure, which usually changes only gradually over time.

Ownership

  • local government
    Local government
    Local government refers collectively to administrative authorities over areas that are smaller than a state.The term is used to contrast with offices at nation-state level, which are referred to as the central government, national government, or federal government...

     - the most usual structure worldwide
  • national government
    Central government
    A central government also known as a national government, union government and in federal states, the federal government, is the government at the level of the nation-state. The structure of central governments varies from institution to institution...

     - in many developing countries, especially smaller ones
  • private ownership - relatively few examples outside England and Wales
    England and Wales
    England and Wales is a jurisdiction within the United Kingdom. It consists of England and Wales, two of the four countries of the United Kingdom...

  • co-operative ownership and related NGO structures

Operations


  • local government operating the system through a municipal department, municipal company, or inter-municipal company - the most usual structure worldwide
  • local government outsourcing
    Outsourcing
    Outsourcing is the process of contracting a business function to someone else.-Overview:The term outsourcing is used inconsistently but usually involves the contracting out of a business function - commonly one previously performed in-house - to an external provider...

     operations to the private sector - an increasing trend since around 1990; around 10% of the industry (see also water privatization
    Water privatization
    Water privatization is a short-hand for private sector participation in the provision of water services and sanitation, although sometimes it refers to privatization and sale of water resources themselves . As water services are seen as such a key public service, water privatization is often...

    )
  • national government operations
  • private sector operating a system it owns
  • BOT
    Build-Operate-Transfer
    Build-own-operate-transfer or build-operate-transfer is a form of project financing, wherein a private entity receives a concession from the private or public sector to finance, design, construct, and operate a facility stated in the concession contract...

    s - private sector building parts of a water system (such as a wastewater treatment plant
    Sewage treatment
    Sewage treatment, or domestic wastewater treatment, is the process of removing contaminants from wastewater and household sewage, both runoff and domestic. It includes physical, chemical, and biological processes to remove physical, chemical and biological contaminants...

    ) and operating it for an agreed period before transferring to public sector ownership and operation.
  • cooperation and NGO operators

Functions

  • Integrated water system (water supply, sewerage (sanitation) system, and wastewater treatment) - by far the most common
  • Separation by function (eg Dutch
    Netherlands
    The Netherlands is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, located mainly in North-West Europe and with several islands in the Caribbean. Mainland Netherlands borders the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east, and shares maritime borders...

     system where sewerage run by city, water supply by municipal companies, and water treatment by water boards)
  • Other separation (eg Munich
    Munich
    Munich The city's motto is "" . Before 2006, it was "Weltstadt mit Herz" . Its native name, , is derived from the Old High German Munichen, meaning "by the monks' place". The city's name derives from the monks of the Benedictine order who founded the city; hence the monk depicted on the city's coat...

    , where separation into three companies for bulk water supply, water and wastewater network operations, and retail)

Standards


Whatever the ownership structure, water quality
Water quality
Water quality is the physical, chemical and biological characteristics of water. It is a measure of the condition of water relative to the requirements of one or more biotic species and or to any human need or purpose. It is most frequently used by reference to a set of standards against which...

 standards and environmental standards relating to wastewater are usually set by national bodies, such as (in the UK) the Drinking Water Inspectorate
Drinking Water Inspectorate
The Drinking Water Inspectorate is a section of Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs set up to regulate the public water supply companies in England and Wales....

 and the Environment Agency
Environment Agency
The Environment Agency is a British non-departmental public body of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and an Assembly Government Sponsored Body of the Welsh Assembly Government that serves England and Wales.-Purpose:...

. In the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 drinking water standards are set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
United States Environmental Protection Agency
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is an agency of the federal government of the United States charged with protecting human health and the environment, by writing and enforcing regulations based on laws passed by Congress...

 (EPA). U.S. pollution control standards are developed jointly by EPA and state environmental agencies pursuant to the Clean Water Act
Clean Water Act
The Clean Water Act is the primary federal law in the United States governing water pollution. Commonly abbreviated as the CWA, the act established the goals of eliminating releases of high amounts of toxic substances into water, eliminating additional water pollution by 1985, and ensuring that...

. For countries within the European Union
European Union
The European Union is an economic and political union of 27 independent member states which are located primarily in Europe. The EU traces its origins from the European Coal and Steel Community and the European Economic Community , formed by six countries in 1958...

, water-related directives
European Union directive
A directive is a legislative act of the European Union, which requires member states to achieve a particular result without dictating the means of achieving that result. It can be distinguished from regulations which are self-executing and do not require any implementing measures. Directives...

 are important for water resource management and environmental and water quality
Water quality
Water quality is the physical, chemical and biological characteristics of water. It is a measure of the condition of water relative to the requirements of one or more biotic species and or to any human need or purpose. It is most frequently used by reference to a set of standards against which...

 standards. Key directives include the Urban Wastewater Treatment Directive 1992 (requiring most towns and cities to treat their wastewater to specified standards), and the Water Framework Directive
Water framework directive
The Water Framework Directive is a European Union directive which commits European Union member states to achieve good qualitative and quantitative status of all water bodies The Water Framework Directive (more formally the Directive 2000/60/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23...

 2000, which requires water resource plans based on river basins, including public participation based on Aarhus Convention
Aarhus Convention
The UNECE Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters, usually known as the Aarhus Convention, was signed on June 25, 1998 in the Danish city of Aarhus. It entered into force on 30 October 2001...

 principles. See Watertime - the international context, Section 2. International Standards (ISO) on water service management and assessment are under preparation within Technical Committee ISO/TC 224.

See also


  • Water privatization
    Water privatization
    Water privatization is a short-hand for private sector participation in the provision of water services and sanitation, although sometimes it refers to privatization and sale of water resources themselves . As water services are seen as such a key public service, water privatization is often...

  • Millennium Development Goals
    Millennium Development Goals
    The Millennium Development Goals are eight international development goals that all 193 United Nations member states and at least 23 international organizations have agreed to achieve by the year 2015...

     (one of the MDGs is "Reduce by half the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water")
  • National Rural Water Association
    National Rural Water Association
    The National Rural Water Association, with its affiliated state rural water associations, is the largest water and wastewater utility membership organization in the United States of America. The NRWA is a professional organization that supports rural and small water utilities throughout the nation...

     - Industry association supporting small and rural water and wastewater utilities in the United States.
  • Water Services Regulation Authority
    Water Services Regulation Authority
    The Water Services Regulation Authority is the body responsible for economic regulation of the privatised water and sewerage industry in England and Wales....

     - UK water industry economic regulator
  • American Water Works Association
    American Water Works Association
    American Water Works Association was established as an international non-profit professional organization dedicated to the improvement of water quality and supply. Founded in 1881, it claims a membership of around 56,000 members worldwide as of 2010.AWWA has become the largest organization of...

     - North American industry and standards association for drinking water
  • Water Environment Federation
    Water Environment Federation
    The Water Environment Federation is an organization of engineers and industry related to wastewater, water, and water reuse. WEF, founded in 1928, was formerly known as the "Federation of Sewage Works Associations" and the "Water Pollution Control Federation ." WEF members include experts and...

    - Professional association for ambient water quality research & pollution control

External links