Italy: Average cost of water is €250 a year


NEW LEGISLATION will see the reintroduction shortly of property rates in Italy and, given that water costs continue to rise, it is difficult to predict the average cost of both this year.

However, a three-person family living in an averaged-sized apartment can expect to pay at least an annual €250 for their water and perhaps two or three times that amount by way of the new property tax.

Not surprisingly, the issues of local authority, water and property rates in Italy are some of the most hotly contested items on the national political agenda.

In the last year alone, a referendum has seen 96 per cent of voters reject a proposal to privatise water supplies, while one of the first measures introduced by the new government of prime minister Mario Monti last December was the reintroduction of property taxes on primary residences.

In so doing, Monti was undoing the work of his predecessor, Silvio Berlusconi, who, in an obvious vote- catching move during the 2008 general election campaign, had abolished the previous long-standing property tax.

Berlusconi’s gambit plunged local authorities all over Italy into crisis, since many of them had relied heavily on the tax for funding.

The rates were calculated on the size of the house – the bigger the house, the more was paid. Rates on second and third houses (and many Italians have them) are expected to rise sharply. The weekend house in the country may now cost its owner €1,000 a year in rates.

Italians have long paid for water. Government regimes – first in 1865 and then in Fascist times in 1933 – established the principle that water was not free. Most environmentalists would argue that until very recently Italians paid very little for their water, partly because water rates locally varied greatly.

Given that water rates have increasingly come under the control of semi-privatised giants such as ACEA (Azienda Comunale Energia e Ambiente), 51 per cent controlled by the municipality of Rome, water rates have become both more standardised and more expensive.

In theory, all homes are fitted with a water meter, which means householders pay for what they consume. This is often not the case in practice, with companies presenting estimated bills not based on a meter reading.

Furthermore, in the land of apartment living, water charges are often part of the condominium bill.