Water pricing is a term that covers various processes to assign a price to water. These processes differ greatly under different circumstances:
Prices for bottled water are set in the market. Retail prices vary widely between countries, brands, bottle sizes (0.33 liter to 20 liters) and place of sale (supermarket, restaurant etc.). They range from US$ 0.05 to US$6 per liter, equivalent to US$ 50 to US$ 6,000 per cubic meter.
Prices for water sold by tanker trucks in bulk, which is common in cities of some developing countries for households without access to piped water supply, are set in the market. Prices for trucked water vary between about US$1 and US$6 per cubic meter.
Prices for piped water supply provided by utilities, be they publicly or privately managed, are determined administratively (see water tariffs). They vary from US$ 0.01 to almost US$ 8 per cubic meter (including sewer tariffs).
Portland 2.17 gallons cost $0.01 
Prices for irrigation water that is being provided by a public agency are also typically determined administratively, usually using a flat rate, since metering is not common in agriculture in most countries of the world.
The following pricing systems exist for irrigation:
- Area-based tariffs, sometimes differentiated by type of crop grown
- Volumetric pricing, which requires measurement
Tariffs can be paid in the form of labor, which holds mainly in communal types of management in traditional irrigation systems, or in cash. Tariffs can also vary between seasons, with higher tariffs charged during the dry season.
In most countries there is no charge for abstracting water directly from rivers, lakes and aquifers. However, some countries do levy volumetric charges or fees for water abstraction rights. These charges are typically levied on industries, utilities and farmers. Fees for water abstraction and discharge exist for example in France, where revenues are significant and are re-invested in the water sector by water agencies established in major basins. In Germany abstraction fees exist only for groundwater and only in some states, and their proceeds go into the general state budget. Mexico also charges for water abstraction and returns proceeds to utilities, but not to industries. Outside the OECD countries few countries charge water abstraction fees. Where they are applied the level of fees tends to be nominal, such as in Morocco, or enforcement is partial, such as for groundwater abstraction fees in Jordan. In almost all countries that have introduced abstraction fees agriculture, the major water user world wide, is exempted from abstraction fees. Some countries allow water rights to be traded, so that the price for water itself is formed in the market. Such water trading exist in parts of Australia, Chile and the Southwestern United States).
- World Bank, by K. William Easter and Yang Liu:Cost Recovery and Water Pricing for Irrigation and Drainage Projects, Agriculture and Rural Development Discussion Paper 26, 2005, p. 15-19, accessed on February 7, 2010