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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.
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.
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 - the most usual structure worldwide, public utility
- national government - in many developing countries, especially smaller ones
- private ownership - relatively few examples outside Water privatisation in England and Wales
- co-operative ownership and related NGO structures, public utility
- 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; around 10% of the industry[where?]
- national government operations
- private sector operating a system it owns
- 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.
- In the UK, the Drinking Water Inspectorate and the Environment Agency.
- In the United States, drinking water standards for public water systems are set by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) pursuant to the Safe Drinking Water Act. EPA issues water pollution control standards in conjunction with state environmental agencies, pursuant to the Clean Water Act.
- For countries within the European Union, water-related European Union directives are important for water resource management and environmental and water quality standards. Key directives include the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive 1992 requiring most towns and cities to treat their wastewater to specified standards, and the Water Framework Directive 2000, which requires water resource plans based on river basins, including public participation based on Aarhus Convention principles.
- International Standards (ISO) on water service management and assessment are under preparation within Technical Committee ISO/TC 224.
- American Water Works Association - North American industry and standards association for drinking water
- Imagine H2O - International accelerator and organization for water technology startups
- Millennium Development Goals (one of the MDGs is "Reduce by half the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water")
- National Rural Water Association - Industry association supporting small and rural water and wastewater utilities in the United States.
- Water Environment Federation - Professional association for ambient water quality research & pollution control
- The Water Network - Network for the water professionals to share knowledge.
- Sandra L. Postel, Aaron T. Wolf (2001). "Dehydrating Conflict." Foreign Policy.
- United States. Safe Drinking Water Act. Pub.L. 93–523; 88 Stat. 1660; 42 U.S.C. § 300f et seq. Approved 1974-12-16.
- United States. Federal Water Pollution Control Act Amendments of 1972. Pub.L. 92–500 Approved 1972-10-18.
- http://www.watertime.net/Docs/WP1/D7_Int_Context_final-revb.pdf Watertime - the international context. Section 2[dead link]
- Lowi, Alvin Jr. Avoiding the Grid: Technology and the Decentralization of Water
- WaterWorld Magazine (see Water & Wastewater Industry Report e-newsletter)
- Global Water Intelligence
- Industrial WaterWorld
- Water & Wastewater International
- Water Procurement Portal
- National Association of Clean Water Agencies
- Industrial Doctorate Centre for the Water Sector