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    -Jacques Tcheng \ Grenoble water service
    "Knowledge on public water and sanitation services is essential in programming investments, setting quality goals and improving the service rendered, preparing multi-year action plans and determining a fair price for consumers..."

    -Pierre-Alain Roche \ President of ASTE
    "ASTEE is an association with 3 500 members who are professionals, researchers and stakeholders in the public and private sectors, working together to improve local public services in the environmental field..."

The national observatory on public water and sanitation services 2012, a year of changes

The observatory on water and sanitation services launched its activities in 2009 and has become not only a valuable tool for local governments, but also an internet site intended to assist citizens in accessing the data on their drinking-water and sanitation services. Currently, 70% of the French population can access the 2010 data on their drinkingwater service and 60% the data on their collective sanitation services. In 2012, the observatory was outfitted with new tools to simplify the procedures for local governments and to assist them in managing their services. The observatory has also published its first reports.

The observatory is supplied with the 39 mandatory indicators that are required to draft the annual reports on the price and quality of services (RPQS), also known as the «mayor’s report». The indicators provide information on the general situation and the management of each service.

Initial reports containing observatory data

During the World water forum in March 2012, the observatory published the first report on the organisation, management and prices of public water services in France using the data and indicators supplied by local governments. The report revealed some interesting facts.

  • The high number of services, approximately equal to the number of towns.
  • The loss of 25% of the water produced and distributed, due to leaks in distribution networks.
  • The level of information on water systems depends on the size of the service. The larger the service, the more information on its networks is available.
  • The average annual renewal rate has been estimated at 0.61% for drinking-water systems and 0.71% for collective-sanitation systems over the past five years. At that rate, it will take 160 years to renew drinking-water systems and 150 years for collectivesanitation systems.
  • The average annual consumption per inhabitant is 54.7 cubic metres and the average total price for drinking water and sanitation is 3.62 euros per cubic metre (including VAT).
In 2012, the observatory also published for the first time its report on the delegation of water and sanitation services to private companies for the period 1998 to 2008 and more specifically the years 2007 and 2008. In 2008, three-quarters of the 584 new delegations were signed by services serving less than 4 000 inhabitants. The renewal rate for delegations remained constant compared to previous years with 89% of contracts going to the same private company. The average length of contracts finally settled at around 11 years for the decade from 1998 to 2008. At the same time, the prices paid to private companies dropped, particularly that for drinking water.

A constantly improving observatory

The observatory has installed new tools providing greater access to data on its site at Now, anyone can display the interactive maps showing the prices of water and sanitation services in each town, or use the mobile-phone app to obtain price and performance data locally (geolocation), by connecting to the internet or by scanning a QR code. Since 22 March 2012, all data (1.2 million data points) can also be downloaded. For local governments, the observatory offers two new functions:

  • a comparison function that enables each water and sanitation service to compare its data (indicators, main variables and some ratios) with four other roughly similar services;
  • Tele-RPQS, enabling each service automatically to draft and put on-line its annual report on the price and quality of services using the data entered on the observatory site (

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