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When can cities in Norway expect water and sewage bills to go up?

Robin-Ivan Capar
Robin-Ivan Capar - [email protected]
When can cities in Norway expect water and sewage bills to go up?
Norwegian consumers face a doubling – or even tripling – of water and sewage fees in the next 20 years. Photo by Eirik Skarstein / Unsplash

Norway's municipal water and sewage network needs a major overhaul in the next two decades. The estimated cost of the upgrades amounts to 332 billion kroner. Here's how and when it will affect your water and sewage bills.

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The water and sewage infrastructure in Norway requires significant repairs and upgrades. According to the latest report from consultancy firm Norconsult and the research organisation Sintef prepared for the industry organization Norsk Vann, a staggering 332 billion kroner will be needed over the next 20 years to carry out the work.

In Norway, the maintenance and upgrades of the municipal water and sewage network are paid for in their entirety by the residents who use it.

As the need to fix and upgrade the network increases, so do the fees that residents will need to bear.

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However, the municipalities cannot increase the water and sewage fees to finance other, non-related projects, Finance Minister Trygve Slagsvold Vedum told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK).

"The municipalities cannot increase the fees for water and sewage more than the actual costs incurred – this is strictly regulated… The municipalities must then look at how they can do things as cheaply as possible. Is it possible to choose a simpler solution? Is it possible to choose a more affordable way (of doing things)? One should not just transfer the costs to people who already have high expenses," Vedum points out.

Which areas will be most affected?

Last year, the CEO of Norsk Vann, Thomas Breen, warned that, on average, Norwegian consumers face a doubling – or even tripling – of water and sewage fees in the next 20 years.

The abovementioned report expects the largest percentage increase in Nordland, Troms and Finnmark, and Møre and Romsdal.

Here's the list of municipalities which are projected to suffer the highest cost increases over the next two decades, according to NRK:

  • Nordland: 206 percent
  • Troms and Finnmark: 164 percent
  • Møre og Romsdal: 164 percent
  • Trøndelag: 140 percent
  • Innlandet: 125 percent
  • Vestland: 113 percent
  • Vestfold og Telemark: 112 percent
  • Agder: 111 percent
  • Rogaland: 110 percent
  • Viken: 95 percent
  • Oslo: 94 percent

When are the expenses expected to soar?

Norsk Vann believes the hardest increase is expected in the next ten years, as authorities have set a rigid timeline and expectations for municipalities to upgrade infrastructure.

The ongoing energy and inflation crises have only accelerated the rate at which the price hikes are likely to occur – and notable increases in municipal water and sewage fees are expected as early as 2023.

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The latest survey by the Norwegian Association of Local and Regional Authorities (KS) shows that 4 out of 10 municipalities, the fees will increase by more than 20 percent.

READ MORE: Water and sewage price shock expected in many Norwegian municipalities

Of the roughly 80 municipalities that took part in the KS survey, all of them stated that the fees for water and sewage would be increased next year.

Roughly 40 percent of the municipalities expect fees to increase by more than 20 percent in 2023, and 60 percent plan to increase water and sewage fees between 10 and 20 percent.

Norway's largest cities, such as Oslo, Trondheim, Bergen, and Stavanger, are also increasing the fees – especially as some of them recently committed to major water infrastructure upgrades.

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Oslo

The new water supply project in Oslo has put a significant financial strain on the city's budget. The City Councilor for the Environment and Transport, Sirin Stav, says Oslo residents should expect increased fees year by year in the future.

"The fees are increasing because this City Council is now catching up with a huge backlog of critically important investments after other politicians have failed to take responsibility (for them) for years.

"It costs money, but we have to clean up discharges to the Oslofjord… and give Oslo a new and safe water supply," Stav said.

The City Council plans to increase the bill by more than 16 percent in 2023 – and the following years.

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According to the Council's estimates, the water and sewage fees in Oslo will increase by 3,500 kroner for an average household.

This year, an average household in Oslo (i.e., a home of 87 square metres) will pay 4,101 kroner in water and sewage fees.

On the other hand, homes of 120 square metres in the capital will go from paying 5,656 kroner this year to 10,527 kroner in 2026.

Bergen

According to the latest estimates, fees in Bergen will rise less than in other major cities. Residents should expect an increase of 9 percent for water charges and 5 percent for sewage in 2023.

For a home of 120 square metres, the bill will amount to 6,515 kroner next year – an increase of just over 400 kroner.

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Bergen Vann director Magnar Sekse in Bergen Vann told NRK that both the high electricity prices and the interest rate hikes are affecting the water and sewage fees.

"We have experienced an increase in the cost of electricity, which amounts to between 60 and 70 million kroner extra for Bergen water and sewage next year. In addition, we have had an interest rate increase of 2 percent, which amounts to between 70 and 80 million," Sekse says, adding that the fees in Bergen are "quite low" on a national level.

"We are among those with the smallest increase from 2022 to 2023," he notes.

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Trondheim and Stavanger

Fees related to water, sewage, and waste disposal in Trondheim are set to increase by around 1,700 kroner, more than 16 percent, for an average household.

In Stavanger, the municipality plans to increase water fees by 24 percent and sewage fees by 12 percent.

Many Norwegian municipalities have not finalised budgets yet, so some estimates will become available later in the year.

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