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In Hot Water? Issues at Stake in the Regulation of French Water Public Services

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


In France private firms manage the majority of water services, but there is still a large part of water services under direct management. Such a diversity of governance forms allows for efficiency and quality benchmarking between direct and delegated management and raises questions about the determinants of the choice of the local government to manage or delegate and to switch from a governance model to the other. This chapter reviews the literature on these issues in France. Moreover, the chapter identifies several hot issues deserving further research such as scale and scope economics and the implementation of social tariffs or increasing block tariffs.


  • Public Water Services
  • Formal Governance
  • Social Tariff
  • Remunicipalization
  • Leakage Ratio

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  • DOI: 10.1007/978-3-319-98515-2_5
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Fig. 5.1


  1. 1.

    Note that water quality is defined at the national level by the central government, following several European directives (European directive 2000/60 on water).

  2. 2.

    The so-called loi NOTRe (law of August 7, 2015) on the new territorial organization of the Republic.

  3. 3.

    However, the number of bidders remained low, around 1.9 for each bidding process (Guérin-Schneider and Lorrain 2003).

  4. 4.

    Water quality is measured as the % of compliance to the microbiological/physicochemical indicators.

  5. 5.

    There is little historical evidence of the application of this principle. However as large cities’ accounts are now published every year, there is strong evidence of the application of this principle in recent years. The highest financial court in France, the Cour des Comptes (2011), notified several municipalities that their prices were too high, therefore using municipal budgets to fund non-water spendings, or too low, that is, subsidized by another municipal budget.


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Correspondence to Simon Porcher .

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Table 5.1 Variables of the datasets
Table 5.2 Distribution of regulation functions in the French water sector
Table 5.3 Distribution of regulator powers in the French water sector

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Porcher, S. (2019). France. 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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