Water industry

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The water industry provides drinking water and wastewater services (including sewage treatment) to residential, commercial, and industrial sectors of the economy. The water industry includes manufacturers and suppliers of bottled water. Water privatization by companies in the water industry is becoming an issue as water security threatens local communities.[1]


The modern water industry operates sophisticated and costly water and wastewater networks and sewage treatment plants, and typically consumes 1-2% of GDP. It is generally a natural monopoly, and as a result is usually run as a public service by a public utility which is owned by local or national government. In some countries, notably France, the UK and the Czech Republic, the water industry is regulated but services are largely operated by private companies with exclusive rights for a limited period and a well-defined geographical space.

Organizational structure[edit]

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.



  • local government operating the system through a municipal department, municipal company, or inter-municipal company - the most usual structure worldwide
  • local government outsourcing operations to the private sector,(water privatization) an increasing trend since around 1990;[citation needed] around 10% of the industry[where?]
  • national government operations
  • private sector operating a system it owns
    • BOTs - private sector building parts of a water system (such as a wastewater treatment plant) and operating it for an agreed period before transferring to public sector ownership and operation.
  • cooperation and NGO operators


  • Integrated water system (water supply, sewerage (sanitation) system, and wastewater treatment) - by far the most common
  • Separation by function (e.g. Dutch system where sewerage run by city, water supply by municipal or provincial companies, and water treatment by water boards), though some Water Supply Companies have merged beyond municipal or provincial borders.
  • Other separation (e.g. Munich, separated into three companies for bulk water supply, water and wastewater network operations, and retail)


Water quality standards and environmental standards relating to wastewater are usually set by national bodies.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Sandra L. Postel, Aaron T. Wolf (2001). "Dehydrating Conflict." Foreign Policy.
  2. ^ United States. Safe Drinking Water Act. Pub.L. 93–523; 88 Stat. 1660; 42 U.S.C. § 300f et seq. Approved 1974-12-16.
  3. ^ United States. Federal Water Pollution Control Act Amendments of 1972. Pub.L. 92–500 Approved 1972-10-18.
  4. ^ http://www.watertime.net/Docs/WP1/D7_Int_Context_final-revb.pdf Watertime - the international context. Section 2[dead link]

External links[edit]