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Popular Science: Czechs not willing to pay extra for water cleaned of pharmaceuticals

Thanks to the rapid development of analytical laboratory methods, we can now detect the presence of trace concentrations of pharmaceuticals and personal care products in water. The wastewater treatment plants currently in use are, however, often not equipped to completely remove these substances. Zbyněk Hrkal and other scientists from the T. G. Masaryk Water Research Institute and the Charles University Faculty of Science investigated how much Czechs are willing to pay for cleaner water.

Several recent studies have revealed that waste waters contain trace concentrations of increasing amounts of substances that scientists had not been aware of until recently, such as medicines and cosmetics. Even though today's wastewater treatment plants treat most of these substances, significant amounts of them are nevertheless released into the environment and eventually end up in drinking water. Fortunately, technologies that enable us to respond to this situation exist and if they were to be introduced, we could clean the wastewaters of these substances almost completely.

An effective water treatment technology is the use of activated carbon filtration. However, it comes with a considerable cost, and the scientists wondered how much Czechs are willing to pay for cleaner water. When calculating the costs associated with the reconstruction of existing treatment plants throughout Czechia, they assumed that the carbon filtration would be implemented only in treatment plants for 10,000 or more inhabitants. There are 155 of these in Czechia and one-off investment costs for these plants would amount to about 300 million euros. The increase of end-user cost for this measure would be around 0.4 euro/m3, which would mean a 15% increase in water and sewerage costs.

A sociological survey of 835 people showed that most respondents (65%) agreed to a raise of the price, but by no more than 10%. The most common response, chosen by a third of respondents, was a willingness to raise prices by between 6% and 10%. However, the readiness to pay for cleaner water falls with further price increase and only 28% of the respondents would support a price increase of 15% or more. Based on statistical analysis results, those who are willing to pay for a higher quality of water are more likely to be: women, younger, more educated, in a better economic situation and those who are generally satisfied with the environment they live in. However, the results of this study need to be interpreted with caution, as most respondents did not know the actual price of water.

Currently, there is not enough knowledge about the potential negative effects of trace concentrations of drugs in drinking water on human health. Most experts even believe that such extremely low concentrations cannot have a measurable impact on health, even in the case of long-term use. Nevertheless, the results of the sociological survey show a relatively low willingness of the Czech population to contribute to the increased costs of clean water.


Hrkal, Z., Harstadt, K., Rozman, D., Těšitel, J., Kušová, D., Novotná, E., & Váňa, M. (2019). Socio‐economic impacts of the pharmaceutical’s detection and activated carbon treatment technology in water management–an example from the Czech Republic. Water and Environment Journal33(1), 67-76.



Tomáš Weiss

Published: Aug 07, 2019 07:50 PM

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