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Clean Drinking Water as a Sustainable Development Goal: Fair, Universal Access with Increasing Block Tariffs


  • Christian von Hirschhausen
  • Maya Flekstad
  • Georg Meran
  • Greta Sundermann


One focus of the G20 Summit in Hamburg in July 2017 was the United Nations’ sustainable development goals, including those set for the water sector. Despite progress, around 800 million people worldwide do not have adequate access to drinking water. Increasing block tariffs are an instrument widely used to support access to drinking water for poorer segments of the population. With this system, the price of water progressively increases with the volume consumed. An affordable first block ensures that poorer segments of the population have access to drinking water. However, neoclassical economic theory deems this form of tariff inefficient and advises against its use. From a behavioral economics perspective, however, it does have some advantages, which the present study discusses. In addition to their relative ease of implementation, increasing block tariffs are in line with the general public’s concept of fairness: poorer population segments should pay less for vital goods.

Suggested Citation

  • Christian von Hirschhausen & Maya Flekstad & Georg Meran & Greta Sundermann, 2017. "Clean Drinking Water as a Sustainable Development Goal: Fair, Universal Access with Increasing Block Tariffs," DIW Economic Bulletin, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research, vol. 7(28/29), pages 291-291.
  • Handle: RePEc:diw:diwdeb:2017-28-3

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    Cited by:

    1. An, Yunfei & Zhou, Dequn & Wang, Qunwei & Shi, Xunpeng & Taghizadeh-Hesary, Farhad, 2022. "Mitigating size bias for carbon pricing in small Asia-Pacific countries: Increasing block carbon tax," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 161(C).

    More about this item


    Water; tariffs; social preferences; neoclassic economics; sustainable development;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • L51 - Industrial Organization - - Regulation and Industrial Policy - - - Economics of Regulation
    • L95 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Transportation and Utilities - - - Gas Utilities; Pipelines; Water Utilities
    • H21 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Efficiency; Optimal Taxation
    • D40 - Microeconomics - - Market Structure, Pricing, and Design - - - General


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