In France, watr services are under municipal responsibility. They can be managed, either by municipalities themselves, or by private companies through delegation contracts. Whatever the situation is, water management remain under state control. The law of 29 January 1993 known as “Sapin Act” limits the duration of the contracts of delegation and imposes a procedure of publicity and consultation preliminary to their conclusion or their renewal. A study has been led from 1998 by our laboratory on the impact of this competition between private companies on the delegation contracts and their price. The main conclusions are the following:

  • Including water and wastewater contracts, the procedure of competition led to an average fall of 10% of the price paid to the contractor. The most significant falls concern services of more than 20 000 inhabitants;

  • If the global distribution of the contracts between the three major companies in this sector is not basically modified, one notes an increasingly marked presence of independent private operators;

  • The duration of the contracts is in reduction, on average, from 17 to 11 years.

Then, it appears that the procedure instituted by the law of 29 January 1993 allowed a better exercise of competition between the private companies. The municipalities, mainly the smallest, encounter difficulties in the course of the procedure, and this is the reason why they expressed strong expectations in regard to the services of consulting. The progressive development of associations of municipalities makes it possible for the municipalities to obtain more favourable contractual conditions. This study makes it possible to follow the evolution of the number of procedures initiated pursuant to the law of 29 January 1993: nearly 300 in 1997, 582 in 1998 and 684 in 1999. In 2005, most of the 12,000 French contracts would have been renegotiated, a figure which shows the economical impact on water services.

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