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Increasing Block Tariffs in the Water Sector: A Semi-Welfarist Approach


  • Georg Meran
  • Christian von Hirschhausen


We analyze the properties of progressive water tariffs that are often applied in the sector in the form of discretely increasing block tariffs (IBT). We are particularly interested in water tarification in a poverty context where a subsistence level of water has to be allocated to each household. Our approach is "semi-welfarist" to the extent that we analyze second-best pricing schemes that may be applied in practice due to "fairness" or other, non-welfarist considerations. In our theoretical model we compare a modified Coase-tariff and a progressively increasing block tariff with respect to water consumption, water expenses and utility levels. When we impose cost coverage on the water utility, there are clearly adverse effects on the "almost poor" by introducing a progressive tariff. This result is supported with a numerical application using real data from Bangladesh: progressive tariffs may fail to achieve "fair" cross-subsidization of low-income groups.

Suggested Citation

  • Georg Meran & Christian von Hirschhausen, 2009. "Increasing Block Tariffs in the Water Sector: A Semi-Welfarist Approach," Discussion Papers of DIW Berlin 902, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research.
  • Handle: RePEc:diw:diwwpp:dp902

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    Cited by:

    1. Sampaio, P.R.P. & Sampaio, R.S.R, 2020. "The challenges of regulating water and sanitation tariffs under a three-level shared-authority federalism model: The case of Brazil," Utilities Policy, Elsevier, vol. 64(C).
    2. Andrea Caravaggio & Luigi De Cesare & Andrea Di Liddo, 2023. "A Differential Game for Optimal Water Price Management," Games, MDPI, vol. 14(2), pages 1-15, April.
    3. David Roibas & Maria A. Garcia-Valiñas & Roberto Fernandez-Llera, 2019. "Measuring the Impact of Water Supply Interruptions on Household Welfare," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 73(1), pages 159-179, May.
    4. Wu, Ya & Zhang, Li, 2017. "Evaluation of energy saving effects of tiered electricity pricing and investigation of the energy saving willingness of residents," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 109(C), pages 208-217.
    5. Lehmann, Paul, 2011. "Making water affordable to all: A typology and evaluation of options for urban water pricing," UFZ Discussion Papers 10/2011, Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ), Division of Social Sciences (ÖKUS).
    6. Lin, Boqiang & Jiang, Zhujun, 2012. "Designation and influence of household increasing block electricity tariffs in China," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 42(C), pages 164-173.
    7. Garcia-Valiñas, Maria A. & Athukorala, Wasantha & Wilson, Clevo & Torgler, Benno & Gifford, Robert, 2014. "Nondiscretionary residential water use: the impact of habits and water-efficient technologies," Australian Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics, Australian Agricultural and Resource Economics Society, vol. 58(2), April.
    8. Georg Meran, 2012. "Europäische Preisregulierungssysteme in der Wasserwirtschaft: Konzepte und Umsetzungsprobleme," Vierteljahrshefte zur Wirtschaftsforschung / Quarterly Journal of Economic Research, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research, vol. 81(1), pages 167-181.

    More about this item


    water; tarification; prices; fairness; distribution; institutions;
    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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