Poverty and its linkages to access and affordability of water services

Water provision remains at the core of sustainable development and the overarching goal of poverty eradication, and is closely linked to the achievement of Spanish, European, and international goals. For instance, the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development includes a goal on water (Sustainable Development Goal no. 6), with strong linkages to all of the other SDGs, especially energy. Meeting SDG 6 would indeed go a long way towards achieving much of the 2030 Agenda.

In Europe, although much less studied than energy poverty, the number of households at risk of water poverty, especially in Southern part of the continent, has increased considerably in recent years. The Spanish Association of Public Water Supply and Sanitation Operators (AEOPAS) carried out a survey in 2014 to calculate the number of disruptions in water supplies due to non-payment of bills. Results showed that cut-off warnings amounted to more than 500,000 cases, i.e. an increase of 30% compared with 2010, pushing the total number of disconnections to 300,000.

It is remarkable that the provision of water in Spain is a highly politicized issue and that the delivery of the service may take different forms in practice. However, and regardless of the nature of the service provider, it is of key importance to assess its performance and, particularly, it is necessary to understand the institutional mechanisms in place to provide an adequate level of service to the poorest segments of the population.