IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

The consequences of using increasing block tariffs to price urban water


  • Sibly, Hugh
  • Tooth, Richard


Increasing block tariffs (IBTs) are currently used to price urban water in many Australian mainland capitals and a great many cities worldwide. This paper provides a systematic analysis of the impact of the adoption of IBTs to price urban water under the common constraints of scarce supply and cost recovery. The key tools available to policymakers using IBTs are the volumetric rate in the low tier and the threshold level of that tier. This paper shows how variations in these tools influence (i) the fixed charge set by the firm, (ii) the deadweight loss from the IBT and (iii) the bill paid by customers for particular levels of demand. Our analysis suggests that IBTs are neither fair nor efficient. We propose a modification to IBTs that, while retaining their perception of fairness, results in the efficient allocation of urban water.

Suggested Citation

  • Sibly, Hugh & Tooth, Richard, 2014. "The consequences of using increasing block tariffs to price urban water," Australian Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics, Australian Agricultural and Resource Economics Society, vol. 58(2), April.
  • Handle: RePEc:ags:aareaj:260080
    DOI: 10.22004/ag.econ.260080

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Hugh Sibly & Richard Tooth, 2008. "Bringing competition to urban water supply ," Australian Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics, Australian Agricultural and Resource Economics Society, vol. 52(3), pages 217-233, September.
    2. R. Quentin Grafton & Michael B. Ward, 2008. "Prices versus Rationing: Marshallian Surplus and Mandatory Water Restrictions," The Economic Record, The Economic Society of Australia, vol. 84(s1), pages 57-65, September.
    3. Henrique Monteiro, 2010. "Residential Water Demand in Portugal: checking for efficiency-based justifications for increasing block tariffs," Working Papers Series 1 ercwp0110, ISCTE-IUL, Business Research Unit (BRU-IUL).
    4. Hugh Sibly, 2006. "Efficient Urban Water Pricing," Australian Economic Review, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, vol. 39(2), pages 227-237, June.
    5. M. Barry Goldman & Hayne E. Leland & David S. Sibley, 1984. "Optimal Nonuniform Prices," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 51(2), pages 305-319.
    6. Roseta-Palma, Catarina & Monteiro, Henrique, 2008. "Pricing for Scarcity," MPRA Paper 10384, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    7. J. Elnaboulsi, 2001. "Nonlinear Pricing and Capacity Planning for Water and Wastewater Services," Water Resources Management: An International Journal, Published for the European Water Resources Association (EWRA), Springer;European Water Resources Association (EWRA), vol. 15(1), pages 55-69, February.
    8. Schuck, Eric C. & Green, Gareth P., 2002. "Supply-based water pricing in a conjunctive use system: implications for resource and energy use," Resource and Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 24(3), pages 175-192, June.
    9. Brown,Stephen J. & Sibley,David Sumner, 1986. "The Theory of Public Utility Pricing," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521314008, April.
    10. Geoff Edwards, 2006. "Whose Values Count? Demand Management for Melbourne's Water," The Economic Record, The Economic Society of Australia, vol. 82(s1), pages 54-63, September.
    11. Jihad Elnaboulsi, 2001. "Nonlinear pricing and capacity planning for water and wastewater services," Post-Print hal-00447925, HAL.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Fogarty, James & Polyakov, Maksym & Iftekhar, MD Sayed, 2017. "Equitable and Efficient systems of water utility charges in the face of a changing water supply mix," Working Papers 264780, University of Western Australia, School of Agricultural and Resource Economics.
    2. Molinos-Senante, María & Donoso, Guillermo, 2016. "Water scarcity and affordability in urban water pricing: A case study of Chile," Utilities Policy, Elsevier, vol. 43(PA), pages 107-116.
    3. Chang Liu & Boqiang Lin, 2018. "Evaluating Design of Increasing Block Tariffs for Residential Natural Gas in China: A Case Study of Henan Province," Computational Economics, Springer;Society for Computational Economics, vol. 52(4), pages 1335-1351, December.
    4. Michalec, Aleksandra & Hayes, Enda & Longhurst, James & Tudgey, David, 2019. "Enhancing the communication potential of smart metering for energy and water," Utilities Policy, Elsevier, vol. 56(C), pages 33-40.
    5. Kenneth A. Baerenklau & María Pérez-Urdiales, 2019. "Can Allocation-Based Water Rates Promote Conservation and Increase Welfare? A California Case Study," Water Economics and Policy (WEP), World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd., vol. 5(02), pages 1-26, April.


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:ags:aareaj:260080. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (AgEcon Search). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.