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Recent Policy Changes in the Japanese Water Supply Industries

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Part of the Palgrave Studies in Water Governance: Policy and Practice book series (PSWG)


The Japanese water industry is facing a transitional period reflecting changes in populations, natural disasters, the ageing water pipelines and facilities, difficulties associated with inheriting legacy technologies, and so on. The Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, which is the regulatory agency for the water supply businesses in Japan, is aiming to revise the Waterworks Act to strengthen the foundations of the water utility management. This chapter aims to provide an overview of the past and current Japanese water industries and to examine the course of reform of the water supply businesses in Japan.


  • Water Supply Business
  • Small Water Utilities
  • Ministry Of Health, Labour And Welfare (MHLW)
  • Wide-Area Cooperative
  • Japan Water Works Association (JWWA)

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  1. 1.

    The Statistics of Waterworks, Japan Waterworks Association.

  2. 2.

    Strictly speaking, the MHLW approves only water supply business that uses surface water as the main water source. For example, Kumamoto City, which depends 100% of water source on underground water, has a population exceeding 600,000 but has been approved by Kumamoto Prefecture.

  3. 3.

    All empirical analysis using data of the water service business in Japan adopts only LWS samples. This is because financial and operational data are available only for LWS not for SWS and PWS.

  4. 4.

    Sudden and heavy downpour events are termed in Japan as ‘Guerrilla heavy rainfall’.


  • Development Bank of Japan. (2015). Current Situation and Issues of Water Supply Business in Japan (Wagakuni Suidojigyosya No Genjo To Kadai). (in Japanese).

    Google Scholar 

  • Japan Waterworks Association. (2015). Survey Results on Water Tariff System in Japan (Suido Ryokin Seido Ni Kansuru Chosakekka Ni Tsuite). (in Japanese).

    Google Scholar 

  • The Cabinet Office, Government of Japan, Concession Business (Concession Jigyo). Retrieved August 12, 2017, from (in Japanese).

  • The Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare. (2016). Measures to Be Taken to Strengthen the Foundation of the Water Supply Business to Support the People’s Living’ (Kokumin Seikatsu Wo Sasaeru Suidojigyo No Kiban Kyoka Tou Ni Mukete Kouzubeki Sesaku Ni Tsuite). (in Japanese).

    Google Scholar 

  • The Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, Water Supply in Japan. Retrieved June 22, 2017, from

  • Urakami, T., & Parker, D. (2011). The Effects of Consolidation Amongst Japanese Water Utilities: A Hedonic Cost Function Analysis. Urban Studies, 48(13), 2807–2827.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

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This work was supported by JSPS Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research(C) Grant Number 24530284.

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Correspondence to Takuya Urakami .

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Appendix: Waterworks Act

Appendix: Waterworks Act

Waterworks Act was promulgated on June 15, 1957, and came into effect on December 14, 1957. After that, the Act has been amended several times. The items of the Act are as follows (the MHLW web site):

Chapter 1 General Provisions (Article 1 to 5)

  • Article 1 Purpose of This Act

  • Article 2 Responsibility

  • Article 3 Definitions of the Terms

  • Article 4 Water Quality Standards

  • Article 5 Facility Standards

Chapter 1.2 Wide-Area Water Supply Reinforcement Program (Article 5.2)

Chapter 2 Water Supply Business

  • Section 1 Business License, etc. (Article 6 to 13)

  • Section 2 Services (Article 14 to 25)

  • Section 3 Designated Water Service Installation Works Contractor (Article 25.2 to Article 25.11)

  • Section 4 Designated Examining Body (Article 25.12 to Article 25.27)

Chapter 3 Bulk Water Supply Business (Article 26 to 31)

Chapter 4 Private Water Supply System (Article 32 to 34)

Chapter 4.2 Private Water Supply Facility (Article 34.2 to Article 34.4)

Chapter 5 Supervision (Article 35 to 39)

Chapter 6 Miscellaneous provisions (Article 40 to 50.3)

Chapter 7 Penal Provisions (Article 51 to 57)

Supplementary Provisions

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Urakami, T. (2019). Japan. In: Porcher, S., Saussier, S. (eds) Facing the Challenges of Water Governance. Palgrave Studies in Water Governance: Policy and Practice. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.

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