Questions and Answers

Here are some of the most common Questions and Answers related to Private Water Operators


Armenia - Call Center Staff


1/ What do private operators do?

Private operators are private companies that operate public water and wastewater systems under the control and direction of public authorities through contracts and licences. Their job is to deliver safe water and sanitation services to all water and wastewater users, who are people, businesses, institutions and the environment.


Private operators provide reliable, efficient and good quality services to the users. They serve all members of society no matter whether they are rich or poor.


Public authorities decide through the contract which perimeter needs to be served. Private water operators have demonstrated their ability to deliver water and sanitation services to previously unserved populations, and can expand these services to un-served people, including in peri-urban and rural areas, for example by introducing social connection programmes.


  • Provide services – main job service package, bill collection
  • Protect the environment
  • Treat water & wastewater
  • Construction & maintenance
  • Knowledge & skills,
  • Research, social science, geo-map
  • Provide advice
  • In some cases bring finance (not being a bank)

2/ What are private operators committed to?

Private operators are committed to: 


  • Deliver good quality water and wastewater services
  • Achieve the goals formalised in contracts by public authorities
  • Ensure economic viability of services
  • Implement high standards of employment
  • Training, technology transfer and knowledge management
  • Respect national and international standards for water and wastewater services
  • Innovate and improve technical solutions to work more efficiently and effectively
  • Provide information and advice to their public authority clients, on technical, economic, environmental and customer relation issues.


  • Contribute to find solutions to local, regional and global water challenges
  • Cope and overcome challenges: climate change, floods and droughts.
  • Protect the environment (not just aquatic) for water security


  • Promote dialogue, transparency, integrity and fair competition in water and wastewater services
  • Work with all stakeholders (government, local authorities, civil society, associations, individual users, unions, academia,…)

3/ How are private operators linked to public authorities?

Private water operators’ mission is determined on a case-by-case basis by public authorities (or public utilities) in conformity with the national policies and legislation in the field of water and wastewater services.


Public authorities use them as instruments to implement their public water and wastewater policies.


Governments set service targets and control private operators through public service contracts or license agreements.


Public authorities select private water operators using competitive tendering. Public-private partnership contracts are signed between the parties.


4/ How do private operators respect and contribute to realising the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation?

Around four billion of the world’s population do not have their human rights to water and sanitation completely fulfilled today.


All individuals need safe water and safe and dignified sanitation every day. Their basic needs for water and sanitation are recognised by international law as a human right in 2010. In 2015, the right was split into separate but related rights to enable greater emphasis on each of them: the human right to water and the human right to sanitation. These rights have precise requirements for states. They mean that everybody should enjoy access to a minimum quantity of water. This water should be safe, accessible, acceptable, affordable, sufficient and should be obtainable without discrimination. They also mean that sanitation should be accessible meeting similar criteria.


Governments have the responsibility to turn the human rights to water and sanitation into a reality progressively for all citizens. With their experiences and skills all over the world, private water operators enable this goal to become a reality for public authorities.


Focussing on water - private water operators deliver significant progress on all the dimensions of the right when they are requested to do so by public authorities. Their daily job is to provide good quality water to all water-users without any discrimination. Competitive tendering ensures that private operators use their professionalism to optimise costs to users and taxpayers as a whole.


Private water operators implement the social support mechanisms and subsidies that are designed with public authorities and are therefore an efficient tool for governments that want to ensure that safe drinking water and sanitation services are provided to all people, no matter whether they are rich or poor and to expand service also to marginalised communities and people.


AquaFed proposes to measure the improvements on a “radar” diagram where progress on these different dimensions can be reported independently. The starting points differ from one location to another. They can also be very diverse according to different users in the same location.

5/ How do private operators contribute to sustainable development?

Sustainable development is in the nature of private water operators all over the world. The services they deliver have a direct impact on economic, social and environmental dimensions.  Their skills are used by public authorities to ensure the quality and the affordability of access to water and wastewater services.


  • Environment: depending on the locations and the directions given by authorities, private operators are committed to manage water resources, pump and purify raw water, operate water distribution systems, supply clean water to domestic and industrial users, and to collect, treat and /or re-use wastewater or return it to the environment.
  • Society: governments have the responsibility to turn the human rights to water and sanitation into a reality for all citizens. With their experiences and skills, private water operators enable this goal to become a reality for public authorities. Access to water and sanitation services have a strong health impact for the population, but also on the educational development and the economic situation of the people. It enables the ones who had to go in search for water for their families to finally have time for education, other tasks and to take up paid jobs. It also facilitates employment and contributes to well-being.
    • Economy: private water operators’ activities generate local dynamism every where they operate. The provision of water and wastewater services allows the economic sector to improve existing businesses and to create and allocate new economic activities and industries.  

6/ How is the water price defined?

It is the responsibility of the public authorities to set the tariffs.


Private water operators do not own water so they cannot sell it. As a natural resource, water is a common good.


Private water operators operate public water systems and provide services in order to make water and sanitation accessible and affordable to users. These services have a cost, which must be covered by the community that benefits.


A sustainable water and wastewater economy requires cost recovery. Most of the fixed costs depend on external factors, not on private water operators (labour, energy, chemical products, infrastructure, maintenance of the systems…).


The price of water services and the way these costs are recovered are decided by the public authorities, not by the private operator. Part of the role of operators is to be proactive and innovative in keeping costs down. They work to increase efficiency and to optimize energy consumption and other ways to contribute to cost reduction. 


March 14th 2015


Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet

    Attached Ressources

    • Video | 02/09/15 | Jack Moss, on how Sustainable Development Goal 6 will seek to ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.
    • Video | 02/09/15 | Jack Moss, on the Sustainable Development Goals
    • 28/06/16 | Brochure on the Performance of Private Water Operators (EN)