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Case Studies




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WaterTime Case Studies
Mancomunidad del Sureste de Gran Canaria Cordoba Palma de Mallorca Madrid Spain Spain Cardiff Grenoble France Rotterdam UK Leeds Edinburgh Stockholm Sweden Sweden Finland Tampere Hameenlinna Tallinn Estonia Lithuania Kaunas Vilnius Berlin Gdansk Warsaw Lodz Munich Milan Budapest Debrecen Szeged Bologna Arezzo Rome Bucharest Timisoara Romania Hungary Germany Poland UK Netherlands Germany Italy Italy France

Country Case study
Estonia Tallinn
Finland Tampere, Hämeenlinna
France Grenoble
Germany Berlin, Munich
Hungary Budapest, Debrecen, Szeged
Italy Arezzo, Bologna, Milan, Rome
Lithuania Kaunas, Vilnius
Netherlands Rotterdam
Poland Gdansk, Lodz, Warsaw
Romania Bucharest, Timisoara
Spain Cordoba, Madrid, Palma de Mallorca, Gran Canaria
Sweden Stockholm
UK Cardiff, Edinburgh, Leeds
City in Time (historical aspects of the 29 case studies)

Case studies and national context reports (downloadable below) are generally 500-1000 kb.


Around 93% of the population is connected to the public water supply system in Estonian towns and bigger settlements. The Public Water Supply and Sewerage Act enacted in February 1999 stipulates the rights and obligations of state, local government, water supplier and consumer. Local councils have to establish 12-year development plans for their public water supply and sewerage system, and regulate prices. There are 31 public water supply companies belonging to the Association of Water Works providing water services to more than 30 bigger settlements. These enterprises are mostly undergoing a privatization process from former municipal institutions and are operating now in co-operation with local government.

Tallinn Case Study

The City of Tallinn incorporated its water and sewerage undertaking in May 1997. After the establishment of Tallinna Vesi, the City Government made several proposals regarding the partial sale of the shares of the company to an international “strategic investor” in 1997-1998. Both Tallinn Waterworks and Sewerage Municipal Enterprise and Tallinna Vesi were involved in development cooperation activities, for instance, with Swedish and Finnish water undertakings and enterprises, and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) has given loans for investments since 1994. Finally, the City Council narrowly voted on 15 June 2000 to sell 50.4 percent of Tallinna Vesi's share capital by international tender. The privatisation contract between the City and International Water UU was signed on 24th January 2001.




In international comparison Finnish water undertakings are small. Municipal water undertakings supply over 90 per cent of the total amount of water. About 90 per cent of the population is covered by (public) water distribution systems, and nearly 80 per cent is covered by sewerage systems. Yet, competitive outsourcing of services – especially non-core services – of public water undertakings in Finland is very extensive. Outsourced services can form as much as 60-80 percent of turnover in many public undertakings, including nearly 100 percent of capital investment.

Hameenlinna Case Study

The first water works for the Town of Hämeenlinna were constructed in the early 1900s. Supramunicipal cooperation with the neighbouring municipalities has been developed since the late 1990s. Intermunicipal cooperation had first begun in the 1960s, when a neighbouring municipality decided to collaborate with Hämeenlinna Town in wastewater treatment. As a final phase, a supramunicipal water and wastewater services joint-stock company owned by Hämeenlinna Town and five neighbouring municipalities, Hämeenlinna Region Water Ltd., was established in 2001. The company nowadays provides water services to 4 municipalities in the Hämeenlinna Region, and wastewater services to 6.

Tampere Case Study

Tampere Water is responsible for the water services of Tampere, Finland's second-largest city. Cooperation between municipalities in the Tampere and Valkeakoski Region in water abstraction dates back to the 1960s. A general plan to develop this further, including construction of an artificial groundwater recharge plant, was finalized in 1993. A bulk water supply joint-stock company, Tavase Oy, was established by a number of municipalities including Tampere in late 2002. The environmental impact assessment (EIA) process was carried out in 2001-2003, and the required corresponding water and environmental permits were submitted in 2003.



France National Context Report

Grenoble Case Study




In Germany, the vast majority of drinking water comes from groundwater, followed by surface water and bank filtrate. Water quality is generally good. Consumption has dropped after water fees were introduced in the former GDR following reunification in 1990, but also due to an increasing water awareness and the introduction of water-saving technology throughout the country. Water supply has historically been one of the prime responsibilities of municipalities and municipal companies. Recently, however, a number of cities have granted concessions to private operators or sold part of the company to private investors in order to balance their strained budgets. For legal reasons, wastewater management remains the responsibility of the munipalities but there are mergers of water and wastewater services.

Berlin Case Study

Following preparatory steps in 1996, the formal political decision for the partial privatization of the Berlin water and wastewater services (BWB) was taken in 1998. In 1999, a consortium of RWE, Vivendi (later Véolia) and the insurance company Allianz acquired 49.9 per cent of the newly created Berlinwasser Holding (BWH), with full managerial control over BWB and its international water and non-water activities. After certain aspects of the partial privatization legislation were ruled unlawful, notably the calculation basis for return on investment, it was amended in 2003 and a new tariff system introduced to allow consistent price rises.

Munich Case Study

In 1999, Stadtwerke München (SWM Utilities, one hundred per cent publicly owned and supplying gas, water, and electricity) attempted to take over the independent Munich wastewater operations (MSE). The municipal finance department and the MSE’s financial director proposed cross-border leasing (CBL) for Munich’s wastewater treatment plants in 1998 and again in 2000. The public service trade union, local politicians, and MSE’s staff managed to bring forward convincing arguments against these proposals, supported by the press. In all cases, the mayor eventually stopped the plans, and status quo was preserved.





Budapest Case Study

Debrecen Case Study

Szeged Case Study





The Italian water sector has undergone a number of reforms in recent years, first with the 1994 Galli Law, requiring the restructuring of water supply and sanitation operations in broader concession areas, generally under a unique operator subject to regulation. The Galli Law did not require the introduction of private sector participation (PSP). Subsequently, a number of laws have addressed the organisational form of water service providers, limiting the scope for public operations. In particular, the 2002 budget law de facto imposed resort to PSP but considerable amendments have been introduced in order to avoid breach of EU Law. Legislative developments have facilitated a growth in PSP in the Italian water sector, although publicly-owned water operators remain the large majority.

Arezzo Case Study

In 1999, water supply and sanitation operations in the Arezzo area were semi-privatised as a 25-year concession was awarded to a public-private joint venture managed by a Suez-led consortium. This is the longest-standing implementation of water sector reform under the Galli Law and has proven considerably controversial. Issues addressed in the case study include restricted competition, poor performance in achieving the intended objectives of the reform, high level of conflict between local authorities and the private operator, dynamics of water pricing and investments under PSP, and concerns of regulatory capture.

Bologna Case Study

Water supply and sanitation operations have been the object of a number of restructuring exercises under public ownership and management since 1984, both in terms of the operator’s organisational form and extension of the service area beyond the municipal territory. In 2002, the multi-utility providing water and other public services in Bologna merged with a number of neighbouring multi-utilities and was listed on the stock exchange. The infrastructure of the public-private multi-utility was not subject to flotation, with the exception of the infrastructure in the Bologna area. Issues addressed in the case study include the implications of PSP and in-house restructuring in terms of sustainability, and the dynamics of pricing and investment under PSP.

Milan Case Study

Wastewater sector reform in the city of Milan has been introduced through the award of three BOT-style contracts, which have proved in many respects highly controversial. Protracted delays have led to a condemnation on grounds of breach of EU law, with other issues including allegations of excessive costs, corruption and anti-competitive practices by a network of private operators. Following the adoption of the Galli Law, the restructuring of water supply and sewerage operations has been considered a number of times, until the award of a short term concession to a wholly municipally-owned PLC in 2003. Issues addressed in relation to the second set of events include the impact of municipal governments’ fiscal considerations on sustainability, and the potential of public water operations.

Rome Case Study

The restructuring of the multi-utility providing water supply and sanitation services to the city of Rome was prompted in 1992 by investigations into corruption and the ensuing political and organisational crisis. The multi-utility was semi-privatised in 1998 through listing on the stock exchange, and has become a relatively small water multinational. It is now minority-owned by major water multinational Suez, with which it has established an operational alliance within Italy. It remains to be seen how the pursuit of commercial considerations may be reconciled with sustainability objectives under the operations of a 96%-owned subsidiary of the public-private multi-utility.





After Lithuania regained her independence in 1990, responsibility for public water supply and sewerage transferred from the state to municipalities. Municipal water companies were established by reorganising the regional state water companies of the Soviet period. Lithuania depends entirely on groundwater for drinking water supply. One typical feature of water use has been its continuous decrease since the early 1990s. The major reason has been the dramatic change in industrial production since independence. Many industries have collapsed, and the remaining ones are struggling producing only a fraction of what they used to with only a fraction of their earlier work force. Another reason for the decline in water use has been that nowadays almost all households have individual water meters, and people pay according to actual use.

Kaunas Case Study

During Lithuania’s struggle for the independence in the late 1980s environmental questions were high in the agenda. At that time there was no wastewater treatment plant in Lithuania’s second largest city, Kaunas. There had been already earlier some attempts to get a wastewater treatment plant built, but since independence the municipality intensified the efforts. This case study report concentrates on two questions related to Kaunas wastewater treatment: a) decision on the location of the treatment plant, and b) funding of the first phase of the treatment plant.

Vilnius Case Study

After Lithuania regained her independence, and the responsibility for water services was transferred to the municipalities, the capital and largest Lithuanian city, Vilnius, with a population of more than half a million people, became an attractive target for multinational water companies. From 1992 onwards the French company Lyonnaise des Eaux-Dumez SA tried to get involved in Vilnius’ water services over several years. Various forms of private sector involvement were suggested. Finally in May 1998, Vilnius city council decided to keep its water and sanitation service under municipal control, instead of privatising it.





In the Netherlands water supply is provided by municipally-owned PLCs (17 in 2003), whilst water treatment is carried out by water boards (27 in 2003), and sewerage networks in urban areas are owned and operated by municipalities. Water boards and water companies have undergone a long series of mergers over recent decades, sharply reducing their number, driven by efficiency concerns of national and regional government. A recent water law, approved by the Dutch parliament in 2004, requires household drinking water to be supplied by publicly-owned companies. In 2002 the first PPP in the Dutch water sector, for wastewater treatment, was signed with the waterboard of Delfland.

Rotterdam Case Study

The Rotterdam water company (Waterbedrijf Europoort in 2003, now Evides) was the result of a merger of 10 municipal water companies in the early 1990s, a merger driven by regional government concerns over efficiency, and opposed by most of the companies and municipalities involved. In 2004 the company merged with a neighbouring water company, Delta Water, which was demerged from multi-utility Delta. Like almost all Dutch water companies, Evides' shares are held by municipalities and provinces. Evides is the leading Dutch water company in the industrial water sector, and has a 40% share in the Delfland wastewater PPP.





In Poland water and wastewater supply and wastewater treatment is provided largely by municipally-owned commercial-law companies, after state-owned enterprises were re-municipalised in the early 1990s. A few cities have privatised services; a new PPP law under discussion may increase the number by clarifying the legal framework. Investment funds are available on good terms from state environmental funds (funded by environmental fees) as well as EU funds and cities' own funds. The law stipulates that prices are set every year by municipalities. As in other eastern European countries, declining industry and the introduction of household metering have led to falling water consumption since 1990; and declining industry together with investment in wastewater treatment have led to significant environmental improvements, from a position of very high pollution levels in 1990.

Gdansk Case Study

Water and sewerage operations in Gdansk were privatised to French multinational SAUR in 1993, via a lease contract with a SAUR joint venture with the city (Saur Neptun Gdansk). Drinking water standards improved rapidly, and consumption fell 50% in ten years with the introduction of water meters. The city financed the completion of the long-delayed new wastewater treatment plant, which has contributed to much-reduced water pollution on Gdansk's beaches and beyond. In 2004 the city-owned assets are to be transferred to a municipal Asset Holding Company.

Lodz Case Study

Lodz saw a disputed privatisation attempt in 1993/4, strongly opposed by the trade unions, which collaborated to produce an alternative proposal. The privatisation plan, involving Generale des Eaux with financing from the EBRD, ended after elections in 1994 saw a change of government. Investment finance to complete a long-delayed wastewater treatment plant was gained from other sources, notably local and national government. In 2001 the Lodz water company was converted into a municipally-owned commercial law company, leasing assets from the city. The final stages of the treatment plant, now operated by a separate municipal company, involve EU funding. Falling industrial and household consumption has enabled the reduction in use of surface water (maintaining use of existing groundwater sources), with consequent improvement in water quality.

Warsaw Case Study

Warsaw's water suffered particularly badly from Poland's environmental problems, with its main supply source, the Vistula river, downstream from various cities and industries, and wastewater treatment largely inadequate or absent. (This has improved substantially since then.) Only 5% of Warsaw's own wastewater was treated in 1990, and along with investment in drinking water quality, the completion of existing and construction of additional wastewater treatment plants was a priority. One plant was completed and another is due for completion in 2005, but this still leaves a large proportion untreated. Several attempts to bring private involvement failed, and Warsaw's municipally-owned company is now planning to expand the major plant by 2010, with EU and other finance sources.



The territory of Romania has all types of fresh water resources (rivers, lakes, and groundwater). Romanian flowing waters are radially distributed, most of them coming from springs located in the Carpathians Mountains. Almost the only collector is the Danube River, which crosses 1,075 km of the southern part of the country and flows into the Black Sea through a large delta almost entirely located in Romania. The spatial distribution of the water resources under drought conditions is particularly non-uniform. Coordination of sectorial interests and lack of public participation are both limiting factors in the development of a river-based management plan. Romania is showered with pollutants that might come from Ukrainian industrial runoff.

Bucharest Case Study

Water supply in Bucharest is provided by the company Apa Nova, controlled by the French group Veolia Water and by the Municipal Council. It won this competence in March 2000 after a public tender, organized by Bucharest City Council and the Romanian Government with assistance from the World Bank. Although great expectations rested on the privatization of water supply services, the quality of the service is still problematic. Consumers face problems such as the high cost of the service, the poor quality of the water supplied and the malfunctioning of the sewage system.

Timisoara Case Study

Timisoara is the most important city in the western part of Romania. It is the capital of Timis County, which borders Yugoslavia and Hungary. Water management in Timisoara is provided by the public Autonomous Water and Sewerage Company "Aquatim", the administrator of an important segment of the public infrastructure. Aquatim ensures the supply of drinkable water, industrial water and sewerage for all the urban areas of the Timisoara municipality.

The episode of this case describes the loan conditionality to privatize the municipal water company and the way in which the company managed to deal with this complex situation. Rehabilitation of the water treatment plant and of one third of the water distribution network is needed in order to improve the quality of drinking water in Timisoara. The city budget cannot provide the funding necessary for the implementation of these works, which is why the city council has tried to obtain external funds in order to carry out infrastructure overhauls whilst maintaining Aquatim's management in public hands.





Compared to other European countries, the availability of Spanish water resources should not necessarily be considered a problem based on annual water availability, which is estimated at around 40,000 Hm3. However, it is the irregular distribution of Spain's water resources, in both space and time, which makes the difference. Spanish hydraulic resources are also determined by the amount of regulation works carried out throughout the twentieth century in order to satisfy increasing demand, due to population growth and rising agricultural, industrial and tourist needs. The existence of such hydraulic infrastructures allows the use of five times the water volumes that could be naturally used (without the need for any regulatory action to be taken).

Cordoba Case Study

Cordoba is the only city among the 29 case studies whose municipal water undertaking company, EMACSA, has a decision-making system in which we can find a representation of all the social actors (trade unions), citizens (neighbours' associations) and institutional (political parties enjoying a parity status, independent of electoral results). This model was pioneered in 1983 and has generated an organizational culture based on proactive management and on the efficiency of the implementation of strategic plans. EMACSA certification under ISO 9001 and 14000, together with the decision-making process described in this case, have transformed this city into an outstanding example in which participation, transparency and information are factors that promote effectiveness, efficiency and equity in water management.

Madrid Case Study

The Madrid case does not only refer to the city of Madrid: Madrid is both the capital of Spain and of the Autonomous Community of Madrid (CAM). A public sector company, Canal de Isabel II (CYII), depending on the regional government, is responsible for managing every process related to water resources management in the region. Most of the municipalities and citizens in the Madrid Autonomous Community are served by this company. The city of Madrid is one of the European cities with a longer tradition in wastewater treatment, dating back to the construction of the first treatment plant of La China in 1932, with capacity to treat the majority of the wastewater collected at that time. The major boost in this field was the development of the First Sewerage Plan for the City of Madrid during the period 1978-1984, when the sewerage system infrastructure was updated and a financial mechanism to support the construction, maintenance and operation of the treatment plants established.

Mancomunidad del Sureste de Gran Canaria Case Study

Insufficient water resources (groundwater overexploitation and scarcity of water, the quality of which is very poor) in this area is the basis for a story of disputes and conflicts over water to be employed for agricultural use or for human consumption, and of an initially fruitless search for solutions after the introduction of democracy in 1979. Finally in 1991 a supramunicipal body (Mancomunidad) was created in an attempt to find, by means of cooperation, a solution to the water problems in the area, its foremost action points being to satisfy water demand through desalination and tertiary reutilisation. As a result, since the setting-up of the desalination plant in 1993, social conflict with regard to water is a thing of the past, at the same time as economic development and population growth within the three municipalities that make up the Mancomunidad has continued exponentially. This has been made possible by a decision-making system based on consensus, on an environmentally-friendly (agenda 21) strategic planning and on the utilisation of cutting-edge technology (eolian parks, tertiary output, etc …).

Palma de Mallorca Case Study

The main economic sector in Palma de Mallorca is the tourist industry. The conflict between supplying the tourist industry and the resident population at the same time has led to critical situations in the past, due to drought and overexploitation of groundwater, in which it was necessary to import drinking water by ship. The Palma de Mallorca case shows how these difficulties have been managed and overcome, and public public partnership and public private partnership types of businesses have supported the economic development and the sustainability of the island. Desalination plants and water reuse, as well as cooperation between the companies, civil society and the public administration, have proved in a positive way the synergistic capacity of EMAYA, the public municipal company, to instil some vigour into the "new urban water culture".





The Municipality Act of Sweden states that the municipality/local government has the overall responsibility for water supply and wastewater services. Municipal ownership and operation are entrusted either to a municipal department or a municipally owned limited company. Two thirds of utilities cover their costs by fees, and smaller municipalities may subsidise these services out of local tax funds. Altogether 99 percent of the capital and operating costs are covered by tariffs. This means that the business of water supply and wastewater management can be regarded as self-sustaining.

Stockholm Case Study

Stockholm provides an example of a long-term environmental strategy being pursued through an integrated public sector undertaking, and has a distinctive record of cooperation, including international cooperation. For example there is extensive co-operation between Stockholm and the neighbouring municipalities through a number of formal associations but also less formal bilateral collaboration. The case study also emphasizes the significance of ownership.





England and Wales has a unique system of water service provision, being based on a relatively few private monopolies (23 in 2004) which own the water infrastructure, and structured largely on river basin principles. (In Scotland and Northern Ireland water services are provided by a state-owned company and government agency respectively.) The system, created by stock-market flotation of ten former government agencies in 1989, is regulated by three major regulatory agencies (economic, environmental and drinking water quality). The economic regulator sets individual companies' price caps and investment programmes every five years, based partly on comparing companies against each other ("yardstick competition") as well as their past history. EU requirements have driven increasing environmental investment and outcomes in the last 15 years.

Cardiff Case Study

Like all the ten water companies privatised in 1989, Welsh Water sought to use its considerable cash flow to diversify into other sectors and other countries to guarantee long-term shareholder returns. In 1996 it took over the local electricity company, Swalec, renaming itself Hyder, and by 1998 it was Wales' largest independent private employer, and had quadrupled its turnover since 1990. A double blow from the windfall tax introduced by the new Labour government and a regulatory price review which enforced price cuts alongside investment made Hyder's share price plummet, and in 2000 it faced a takeover battle. This was eventually won by a company intending to break up Hyder and keep only the electricity distribution; which it did, selling the water division to a non-profit company (Glas Cymru) expressly set up for the purpose. Glas outsources 85% of its operations to other water companies, keeping just a management and finance core.

Edinburgh Case Study

Leeds Case Study

Like the other water companies privatised in 1989, Yorkshire Water sought to diversify into other sectors and countries, before more recently refocussing again on water. The 1999 regulatory price review, which enforced price cuts alongside investment, prompted Yorkshire to look for ways to reduce its cost of capital. In 2000 it proposed selling its assets to a mutual society owned by its customers, with Yorkshire becoming a pure services company. The plan offered good returns to shareholders but met fierce condemnation from customers and the regulator, and was later dropped. Instead the company sold its energy and waste interests to refocus on water, reverting to a "boring" water utility as an alternative way of cutting its cost of capital.



The case studies were chosen on the basis of the:

  • diversity of experience of the cities, including diversity within one country, and therefore the potential for improving understanding, developing good practice and disseminating relevant lessons;
  • relevance of experience for today’s policy makers;
  • feasibility of the case studies in terms of the team members' existing level of knowledge and contacts;
  • geographical representation - north and south EU, as well as candidate countries thus representing the full range of water requirements and challenges experienced in Europe;
  • language capability of the team to work in the cities;
  • partnership expertise and knowledge of the cities and countries.

Demonstration cities
Country City
Austria Vienna
Greece Athens
Russia St Petersburg