The rationale for water tariffs
One of the ways of ensuring sustainability in water supply is to make sure that the cost of providing the supply is covered by the revenue from payments by consumers. For this to happen, water tariffs must be set. A water tariff can be defined as ‘the price paid by consumers for water’.
As you have been reading in previous study sessions, the process of providing safe drinking water for large communities in towns and cities requires several steps, from identifying and developing an appropriate water source through to delivery to consumers via a distribution network. In many locations, large-scale water treatment is also needed, involving a series of processes in a water treatment works.
Can you recall the main steps in water treatment?
The main steps in a large-scale treatment works are screening, aeration and/or pre-chlorination, coagulation and flocculation, sedimentation, filtration, and chlorination. Supplementary treatment may also be needed.
Producing the water, storing it and ensuring it gets to consumers requires the input of expertise, labour, energy and chemicals, all of which cost money. The aim in a water supply system should be to recoup this expenditure and also gather funds for maintenance, renewal of equipment, management costs, repayment of debts, building up of financial reserves, and expansion of the water supply system (when the need arises). Water tariffs provide a way for the money to be gathered from consumers.