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Spainmarker: Water and Sanitation
Water coverage (broad definition) 100%
Sanitation coverage (broad definition) 100%
Continuity of supply (%) n/a
Average urban water use (l/c/d) 157
Average urban domestic water and sewer bill Euro 227/year
Share of household metering n/a
Non-revenue water n/a
Share of collected wastewater treated 77% (2005)
Annual investment in WSS n/a
Share of self-financing by utilities n/a
Share of tax-financing n/a
Share of external financing 0%
Decentralization to municipalities Full
National water and sanitation company None
Water and sanitation regulator None
Responsibility for policy setting Not clearly defined
Sector law None
Number of service providers n/a
Water supply and sanitation in Spain is characterized by universal access and generally good service quality, while tariffs are among the lowest in the EU. About 60% of the population is served by private water companies which operate under concession contracts with municipalities. The largest of the private water companies, with a market share of about 50% of the private concessions, is Aguas de Barcelona (Agbar).

Droughts affect water supply in Southern Spain, which increasingly is turning towards seawater desalination to meet its water needs.


Access to water supply and sanitation in Spain is universal. 98% of the urban population and 93% of the rural population is connected to sewers, while the remainder is served by on-site sanitation systems such as septic tanks.

Service quality

In 2009 the consumer organization OCU analyzed the presence of six pollutants in drinking water in 64 cities and towns. The pollutants were trihalomethane, volatile organic compounds, pesticides, nitrate, boron and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon. The analysis showed that drinking water had improved since the last report by OCU on drinking water in 2006. Problems were encountered only in Orensemarker (trihalomethane) and in Gironamarker (pesticides).

Information on drinking water quality in Spain can also be found at the following website of the Ministry of Health (in Spanish):

Drinking Water Quality

Concerning wastewater treatment, in 2005 77% of municipal wastewater was treated in accordance with standards set by the EU.

Links to water resources

Southern Spain regularly suffers from severe droughts. The National Hydrological Plan (PHN by its Spanish acronym, from Plan Hidrológico Nacional) foresaw substantial investments into the transfer of surface water from the Ebro River south to cities on the Mediterranean coast. However, in 2004 these plans have been shelved by the newly elected Spanish government in favor of seawater desalination, adding to 700 existing desalination plants.

Data about water sources and use vary according to the source of information. According to the utility association ASOAGA about 74% of municipal water supply originates in surface water, only 19% in surface water and 7% in springs and desalination. However, according to a 2007 survey by the National Statistical Institute 63% of the water distributed by utilities came from surface water, 33% from groundwater and 4% from other sources such as desalination. According to the utility association ASOAGA water use is about 280 liter per capita and day (l/c/d). This figure may include non-revenue water. A survey by the International Water Association (IWA) in four Spanish cities gives water use as between 169 l/c/d in Valencia and 192 l/c/d in Valencia, including industrial water use. These usage levels are similar to the average of OECD countries. The National Statistical Institute gives an average water consumption of 157 l/c/d, varying between 125 l/c/d in the Basque country to 189 l/c/d in Cantabria.

About 20% of treated wastewater in Spain is being reused, primarily for irrigation and landscaping.

Responsibility for water supply and sanitation

Policy and regulation

A cornerstone of the legal framework for water supply and sanitation is the 1985 Water Law (Ley de Aguas). Policy and regulation functions for water supply and sanitation are shared among various Ministries. For example, the Ministry of Environment is in charge of water resources management and the Ministry of Health is in charge of drinking water quality monitoring.

Basin Agencies (Confederaciones de Cuencas Hidrográficas) are in charge of planning, constructing and operating major water infrastructure such as dams; elaborating basin plans;setting water quality targets, as well as monitoring and enforcing them; granting permits to use water, as well as inspecting water facilities for which permits were granted; undertaking hydrological studies; and to provide advisory services to other entities at their request. Basin Agencies are headed by a President who is nominated by the Cabinet at the proposal of the Minister of Environment. Each agency has a Board, a user assembly and a council to ensure broad participation by various stakeholders in its decision-making process, both in planning and operations. There are a total of 15 Basin Agencies in Spain for rivers that flow through more than one autonomous community. If a river runs entirely within the territory of an autonomous community the water administration of the respective autonomous community, instead of one of the basin agencies, is in charge of managing its water resources. This is the case in Galiciamarker, Cataluña, the Balearic Islandsmarker, the Canary Islandsmarker, the Basque countrymarker and Andalusiamarker.

While basin agencies do not provide water and sanitation services, they play an important role in determining the framework for the provision of such services.

Service provision

Service provision is the responsibility of the more than 8,000 municipalities of Spain. Municipalities can provide services either directly, through a public company, or through concessions to either a mixed public-private company or a private company.

The main urban service provider in Spain is Aguas de Barcelona (Agbar), a private company that provides water and sanitation services to about 20 million people in more than 1,000 localities with a population between 1,000 and more than 3 million under concession contracts.

History and recent developments

Note: This section remains to be developed.

Spain was one of the first countries in the world to create river basin agencies through a Royal Decree-Law published in 1926. The first river basin agencies (Confederaciones Hidrográficas) were created in the Ebro basin and in the Seguramarker basin in 1926, followed by the Guadalquivir in 1927 and the Eastern Pyreneesmarker in 1929. Until 1961 basin agencies were created in the entire country.


A survey by the National Statistical Institute estimates the avereage level of non-revenue water at 24% 2007, including real (physical) losses of 16% and apparent losses due to undermetering and other factors of 8%.

Tariffs and cost recovery

According to the International Water Association (IWA) the annual water and sewer bill of a household using 200 m3 per year was US$ 300 per year, or US$ 25 per month. This was the second lowest bill among 12 EU countries included in the IWA survey. According to a survey by the Spanish consumer organization OCU the water tariff was Euro 227 per year for a water consumption of 175 m3 The average water and sewer tariff thus was Euro 1.30/m3. The tariffs and annual bills varied substantially between cities, ranging from 112 to 413 Euro. Many cities had a large flat fee that included a consumption of between 60 and 180 cubic meter per year, thus providing no financial incentive to save water below this level.

According to the consulting firm NUS the water tariff (without sewerage) in Spain is US$ 0.93 per m3 in 2006.

According to a study carried out by a consulting firm for the German professional association BGW in 2006 the average annual water and sanitation bills in four EU countries were as follows (the study did not cover Spain):

Water tariff Sewer tariff Total
Germany 85 euro 111 euro 196 euro
England and Wales 95 euro 93 euro 188 euro
France 85 euro 90 euro 175 euro
Italy 59 euro 40 euro 99 euro

Source: Metropolitan Consulting Group: VEWA - Vergleich europaeischer Wasser- und Abwasserpreise, 2006, p. 7 of the executive summary [591239]

A recent poll of 2000 by the BBVA Foundation reveals attitudes about water: that price should not rise and that the means of finding more water resources should take priority.

Investment and financing

According to a blog on "Sustainable Spain", Spain spends €6,330 million annually on the capture, transport and extraction of underground water, plus water distribution and sanitation. However, the industry association AGA estimates investments by its members, which supply water to 75% of the population, at "more than €290 million" annually.

See also

EU water policy

External links


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