The theory and practice of water pricing and cost recovery in the Water Framework Directive

Julio Berbel
Water, Environmental and Agricultural Resources Economics (WEARE); and Universidad de Córdoba, Spain; berbel@uco.es

Alfonso Expósito
Water, Environmental and Agricultural Resources Economics (WEARE); and Universidad de Málaga, Spain; aexposito@uma.es

ABSTRACT: Article 9 of the Water Framework Directive (WFD) requires member states to take account not only of the principle of cost recovery of water services, including environmental and resource costs (ERCs), but also of the use of water pricing as an environmental policy instrument; nevertheless, no common methodology exists for the estimation of financial costs, nor is there a practical definition of ERC. The review of public evidence and scientific research regarding the effect of pricing on demand shows the limitations of water pricing and the need to integrate pricing and non-pricing instruments. Cost recovery remains a convenient policy for the financing of existing and future water infrastructures. This study offers a brief discussion on the theory and practice of pricing in Article 9 of the WFD and proposes the adoption of a more realistic approach to the implementation of cost recovery, one which abandons the unrealistic objective of monetisation of ERCs and proposes alternatives to the current emphasis on water pricing as a component of water resources management.

KEYWORDS: Water Framework Directive, cost recovery, water pricing, affordability, environmental and resource costs