The oscillations reach 440 Euros per year

FACUA finds differences of up to 339% in water tariffs of 28 cities in 2014

The association requests measures to avoid the supply disruption to those families who cannot face the payment of the bill.

FACUA finds differences of up to 339% in water tariffs of 28 cities in 2014

FACUA-Consumers in Action has carried out a comparative study about the household water tariffs in 28 Spanish cities (here the chart in Spanish), where it has confirmed differences of up to 338.7% depending on the city. Oscillations reach 439.8 Euros per year for a household using 10 cubic metres per month. Compared prices include taxes and surcharges applied in some cities, but do not consider tariffs for renting and maintaining water meters.

FACUA's analysis takes as a reference a home with three tenants and a monthly use of 10 cubic metres. Users with 13 millimetres diameter meters have lived an average increase of 2.7% while tariffs for 15 millimetres diameter meters have lived an increase of 0.4%.

The association requests progressive tariffs to be applied, depending on the number of tenants that a home has and to penalise excessive uses.

Disproportionate differences

For 13 mm meters and 10 cubic meters of use, the most expensive tariff found is in Murcia (29.35 Euros), Barcelona (23 Euros) and Cadiz (22.82). At the other end is Valladolid, where, no matter if it’s a 13 or 15 mm meter, the cost is 10.82 Euros.

For a 10 cubic metre use with a 15 mm meter, the most expensive monthly tariffs are Alicante (47.57 Euros, where less than 1% of houses have 15 mm meters installed), Murcia (29.35 Euros) and Huelva (24.08 Euros).

The same use with a 13 mm meter implies an average cost of 17.31 Euros, but if a 15 mm meter is used, the average cost increases to 18.68 Euros (always plus VAT and without considering the cost for renting or maintaining the meters).

The highest increases, in Ciudad Real, Barcelona and Bilbao

The highest increase in water price detected by FACUA has been in Ciudad Real, 11.6% more for a monthly use of 10 cubic metres no matter the meter.

Ciudad Real is followed by Barcelona, with an increase of 8.4% and Bilbao (7.5%).

FACUA notes that these increases in tariffs can be not only due to the increases approved by the companies managing the water supply, but also due to the increase of taxes or new ones in municipalities, provinces or autonomous communities.

Number of house's residents

FACUA considers that saving or wasting, as concepts, cannot be disassociated from the number of house's residents. That's why the association believes there must be a move forward in charging per capita and also in progressive tariffs in which excessive use is penalised.

Currently, only two of the cities analysed -Malaga and Seville- have tariffs associated with the number of people living in each house.

Nevertheless, some cities that apply different tariffs when the house is inhabited by at least four people, as Corunna and Barcelona, where they have started to consider four people as a large family in 2014.

Other seventeen municipalities consider whether the houses with more than three people are a large family so that they can be applied reduced tariffs.

The association notes that, in some cases, these reduced tariffs are applied to all large families, while in other municipalities the discounts are associated with the family income or situations like unemployment of all its members or pensioners with low income.

FACUA defends that there should also be social tariffs which take into account disadvantaged groups. The association claims that authorities should enunciate measures to avoid the lack of such an essential service for those families who cannot face the payments. The association also notes that water is a human right declared by UN.

Currently, these families' situations are managed by a social fund of the municipalities or suppliers. But how the social fund is applied, its amount, access requirements, etc is not sufficiently transparent and not always charities can take part on them.

Taxes

Taxes can be local, provincial or regional. The aim, with exceptions, is to use what is collected to improve sanitation and treatment infrastructure.

In Corunna (regional tax) and Majorca (sanitation tax) users paid in 2014 more than in 2013 due to the increase of taxes even though the rest of the tariffs weren’t modified.

In Badajoz, the drop of the fixed part of the regional sanitation tax softens the increase of water tariffs.

In Seville there is a provincial tax and a regional tax, after in 2013, another tax, the one for infrastructures improvement, has been cancelled. This is why the tariff increases applied in 2014 and in the regional tax increase have been softened, especially for houses with three inhabitants using 10 cubic meters, where users have noticed no change at all.

Lack of regulation

In Spain, water home supply belongs to municipalities, who manage it publicly, in consortiums or in groups of municipalities, or also through licences to public, private or mixed companies.

FACUA urges local authorities and water supply managers to give participation to consumers association when designing tariffs and approving them.

FACUA keeps demanding a framework regulation for basic aspects of this service, such as tariff structures, approval proceedings, terms of service, complaints, hiring and participation.

Also, this regulation should include compensations that can be received when there are outages due to reasons other than force majeure or third parties' actions and also the regularity of meters reading and billing.

FACUA believes that the legal framework should also contemplate the conditions for a minimum flow and pressure required by users, the proceedings to guarantee cut-offs or termination of supply and the system to solve complaints.

 Also, the need to establish a rule that clarifies water price and what can be charged to users, with the aim of promoting the clearest model possible, FACUA claims.

 The association also claims the obligation for suppliers to have free phones and customer service offices and to join out of court solution proceedings such as the Consumer Arbitration System.

Methodology

To carry out this study, FACUA has considered the complete water cycle: fixed and variable taxes applied due to supply and sanitation, sewerage, purification and / or discharges, along with possible taxes or late fees related to the improvement of infrastructure, impulsion, draught...

FACUA has compared the data related to 10 cubic metres use, for an average house with three inhabitants.

The independent price for renting and maintaining the meters is not collected, or VAT.

FACUA considers fixed or service taxes those that must be paid even though they are not used, while variable or use taxes depend on the volume of water used.

It is not considered either the existence or not of discounts to large families so that penalisations for high use stay out, which, in this case, are justified. Similarly, tariffs for low income users have not been taken into account.

To evaluate fixed and variable taxes on supply and sanitation a house inhabited by three people has been taken as a reference. In addition, two average uses have been established, of 10 and 20 cubic metres, obtained by individual meters of 13 and 15 mm calibre.

Depending on the city, billing can be monthly, bimonthly, or quarterly, so, to carry out the study, the month equivalence has been calculated.

The study doesn't take into account other concepts affecting water price, such as quality and availability of water, the quality of the service given or the existence or not of subsidies, of use or resources.

The report includes as information the kind of management for each city analysed.