There are astonishing differences when it comes to sewage fees in Germany: while a household of four in Worms in Rhineland-Palatinate pays only around 245 euros per year, in Mönchengladbach (NRW) it is around four times as much at 985 euros. This is the result of a study by the consulting firm IW Consult, which the Haus

From the point of view of association president Kai Warnecke, the big differences are proof that the fees are too high in some places: “Savings are possible, the cities and municipalities can act.”

The model household of four lives in a living space of 120 square meters and on a 200 square meter property, the water consumption of 125 liters per day is in the national average.

It is most expensive in Mönchengladbach

The development of fees in the 100 most populous German cities has been analyzed since 2020, i.e. since the last survey on the subject. Not only in Mönchengladbach, the bottom of the rankings, is it particularly expensive, but also in Potsdam (around 958 euros), Halle an der Saale (879 euros) and Cottbus (878 euros) the citizens are asked to pay a lot. At the top, i.e. cheap, end of the list behind Worms are Ludwigsburg (288 euros), Hanau (307 euros), Regensburg (329 euros), Karlsruhe (340 euros), Frankfurt/Main (346 euros) and Augsburg (365 euros).

The Association of Municipal Companies (VKU), which speaks for the vast majority of water companies, pointed out the different circumstances. “The level of sewage charges varies from region to region, from city to city, and it even has to be different because it takes into account different services, locations and local conditions,” said a VKU spokesman on Wednesday. “Therefore, blanket considerations make no sense: they do not take into account the individual situation on site.”

Fees tend to go up

It is a fact that the local situation is different. Wuppertal, for example, which costs 805 euros, has a height difference of 200 meters in its urban area – the operation of the sewage system there is therefore more complex than in a lowland municipality. The fact that rainwater and waste water are discharged in separate channels there makes things even more complicated. A Wuppertal city spokesman emphasizes that the fees are by no means set arbitrarily, “but are calculated on the basis of strict legal requirements”.

Haus und Grund President Warnecke admits that sewage charges cannot be the same in every German city. But the big differences are “unacceptable”. “The suppliers and the cities have to get involved, because every euro of relief is important.”

It is also noticeable that many cities in North Rhine-Westphalia charge high fees and many cities in southern Germany low rates. The structure of the NRW cities is on average no different than the cities in southern Germany, says study author Hanno Kempermann. However, there is a budget emergency in many cities in the most populous federal state – that is “a valid point” to explain the relatively high values, he says.

It is by no means the case that it has become more expensive everywhere in recent years. It is true that two-thirds of the cities have increased their wastewater fees since 2020 – in Düren (NRW), for example, the model household has increased by 140 euros to 657 euros per year, which is justified by “considerable investments”. But it also went in the other direction: According to the study, a third of the cities lowered their fees – in some places only by a few euros, in other places by significantly more. In Gütersloh it was 99 euros cheaper (to 482 euros), in Krefeld the amount was reduced by 66 to 680 euros and in Lübeck by 63 to 743 euros. In Wuppertal, the annual fee fell by 50 to 805 euros, and in 2024 it should go further down from the still high level. With a bit of luck, you live in a municipality that can reduce its sewage costs.

In most cities, however, it should tend to be more expensive. The reason for this is climate change. For example, the Mönchengladbach city spokesman points out that heavy rain events are increasing. Therefore, high investments in flood protection had to be made and will continue to be so in the future. This is also included in the fee calculation.