Water industry in Europe - Statistics & Facts

Water industry in Europe - Statistics & Facts

Europe has historically been a world pioneer in the water industry. From Roman aqueducts to developing sewage treatment techniques, European countries have been in the front row for decades in providing their citizens with quality drinking water and treating their wastewater outflow before reaching nature. On a global picture, Europe is the continent with the third-largest volume of water withdrawn, with approximately 286 billion cubic meters (m³) in 2020. Nevertheless, water consumption, and access to drinking water and wastewater treatment services vary across the continent.

The largest water consumers in Europe

Unlike every other continent, where the main water-consuming sector is agriculture, Europe’s industries consume most of the water extracted, accounting for around 45 percent of all water withdrawals in 2020. On the other hand, only 29 percent of the withdrawals go to agricultural consumption. Country-wise, if its whole territory is considered, Russia, one of the world’s biggest countries, has the highest water withdrawals in Europe, with 64.8 billion m³ of water in 2020. Italy ranked second that year, with over 30 billion m³.

From the tap to the toilette

Regarding drinking water, Europe has a developed supply network. The percentage of population connected to the public water supply rates above the 80-percent threshold in most countries. In 2021, Italy had the highest residential drinking water daily consumption, with 223 liters per capita, followed by Norway and Sweden, each with more than 170 liters per person. Meanwhile, when it comes to wastewater, even though most European countries had a share of their population connected to a wastewater treatment plant also above 80 percent, this figure dwindles sharply when moving to the eastern side of the continent. In Albania, less than 25 percent of the population was connected to wastewater treatment plants in 2020, while in Serbia, this figure stood at 15 percent. The reduced investment in existing wastewater treatment plants in big cities and the complete lack of such facilities in rural areas is still a growing concern in the Eastern region.

The price of water

Access to safe drinking water and sanitation are considered human rights. Nevertheless, citizens usually must pay a fee for these services, and the difference in European water prices is quite broad. For example, Norway is the European country with the highest annual average water bill per household, at an average of 970 euros per year. Its Scandinavian sibling, Denmark, ranked second during the same period. In contrast, Bulgarians had the lowest average water bill, at 120 euros.

What is charged in the water bill varies depending on the city of residence. Still, in general, the services of drinking water supply and wastewater treatment are charged together. In Europe, water management companies can be private or public, based on what the law of each country stipulates regarding water provision. France, for example, has a high degree of private sector participation via concession and lease contracts. Two of the most important water companies in the continent, Veolia, and Suez, are based in France. 

This text provides general information. Statista assumes no liability for the information given being complete or correct. Due to varying update cycles, statistics can display more up-to-date data than referenced in the text.


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