Traveling to Savines-le-Lac (Hautes-Alpes) in March 2023, Emmanuel Macron presented the government’s “Water Plan” to reduce water withdrawals by 10% by 2030. One of the major announcements of the plan concerns progressive water pricing. In other words, from a certain threshold, the price per cubic meter of water will increase for households.

“The first cubic meters are invoiced at a modest price, close to cost. This corresponds to the water we all need for drinking, washing and carrying out daily domestic uses. Then, beyond a certain volume, the price per cubic meter will be higher, and this is normal, for comfort consumption and to encourage sobriety”, explained the president.

Indeed, this new tax responds to ecological issues and should encourage consumers to be more temperate. According to the president, “water is a common good and for that we need progressive pricing”, reports BFMTV.

The method has already proven itself in other countries, notably in Denmark, as explained by Maria Salvetti, water economist and director of the “Water and Waste” department of the Florence School of Regulation. “They assumed to carry out for ten years, from 1994 to 2003, a policy of increasing the price of water (54%) for all. […] Household consumption fell by 21% over the period”, explains the economist to Capital. Building on this success, the measure could soon be applied in France. When will it be established? Who will be affected?

If the date of entry into force of the new tax is not yet known, the consumers concerned are already. As the price of water is set by local authorities, it is not yet possible to impose progressive pricing throughout the territory. Already in force in a dozen communities of municipalities since 2013, the progressive pricing should be extended to the departments which are experiencing shortages, according to the will of Emmanuel Macron.

In the departments lacking water, pricing could soon be put in place. Like the system in place in Dunkirk (North), three tariff bands could thus be created: one for the first 75 m3, the next between 75 and 200 and the last for more than 200 m3, reports BFMTV. However, according to INSEE, a French household of 2.5 people on average uses nearly 120 m3 per year. A majority of French people would then be affected by the new water tax.

Tiered pricing is promising from an environmental point of view but raises other issues, including installation. Indeed, according to Maria Salvetti, water economist, “establishing progressive pricing presupposes that all users of the service have an individual and smart meter. […] The systematic individualization of water meters, for each apartment , can be very expensive. By way of comparison, we can cite the deployment of 34 million Linky meters which cost Enedis 5.7 billion euros”, reports Capital.

Moreover, according to the economist, the tax would pose a problem of social justice. “Behind a meter, we do not know the number of people who make up the household. This can lead to penalizing the households where there are the most people. And you risk, conversely, subsidizing the households which have the means of paying their bill but which have few people.”

According to Maria Salvetti, another measure would give more results from an ecological point of view and would be less penalizing for households: it would be necessary to “reduce water leaks on the network. […] This could save money several tens of millions of m3 of water.