Is the human right to water sufficiently protected in Spain? Affordability and governance concerns

Most research on water poverty focuses on developing countries. However, research is also needed in developed countries, where water may be too expensive for some households. This paper examines the case of Spain, using data from 16 cities that combined are home to 35% of the Spanish population. We study both national and local systems of regulation and governance. The objective is to determine whether low-income families face a genuine threat of exclusion from water supply. To this end, we analysed whether the Spanish legal framework allows that water supply is cut off for non-payment of the bill. We also did different estimates of the percentage of the family income spent on the water bill, which in some cases can surpass 10%. The estimates account for tariff discounts, as well as assistance programmes available to those who are struggling to pay their water bill. Although there is no problem of affordability for an average Spanish family in general, we conclude that families at risk of poverty face a real threat of exclusion from water services because they are not able to pay for them and the institutional framework does not sufficiently protect them.

By Samara López-Ruiz, Cecilia Tortajada and Francisco González-Gómez, 2020. Article published in Utilities Policy, 63, 101003. DOI: 10.1016/j.jup.2019.101003

More information