Fixed fee, variable fee, adjustable charges and VAT. These are the items you read when you scroll down the amounts shown in the water bill, and sometimes they can leave the consumer perplexed.You need to know that the integrated water service (aqueduct, sewage and purifier) payment consists of several items, divided into fixed and variable fees. This is what the “Integrated text for corresponding water service”, abbreviated “Tisci”, amounts to, as approved by the Authority that oversees the water sector (Arera), and what the environment authorities and operators have to apply.When the introduction of fixed quotas was introduced in 2014, the so-called “minimum applied consumption” in Frosinone’s Ato 5 was exceeded; up to then it had involved each user paying for 108 m3water per year, irrespective of whether that amount was consumed. Both in the case of domestic users and for uses other than domestic, the payment of a variable fee and a fixed fee is therefore envisaged both for the aqueduct service and for the sewage and purification services (these latter services are paid only if actually used): the variable fee includes a rate to be applied to the bill based on the cubic meters of water consumed, while the fixed rate involves an annual fee to be applied to the bill based on the number of days the consumption period billed refers to.The rates that apply are established by the optimal environmental authority and, depending on the method dictated by Arera, prepared by the mayoral assembly.If there are only two rates for sewage and purification (one for the fixed and another for the variable part) that apply to all consumers, things change when the aqueduct is involved, because the rate to apply is instead divided into consumption bands, according to a disincentive system that provides increasingly higher costs for those who consume more water resources (according to the principle "the more you pollute the more you pay"): there is a basic tariff and subsequent consumption bands that have to be progressive, with the limit that the highest bracket cannot be more than six times the reduced rate. In fact, a preferential rate is necessarily applied for residential domestic use (the reduction can have a value between 20 and 50% of the basic rate), which includes the consumption of 50 liters per day (established as the minimum vital quantity) for each member of the family nucleus (the so-called “per capita” rate, currently applied in a standard way - that is, referring to a typical three-member family), will be applied in full in 2021).On the other hand, the “adjustable charges” items are increases in the corresponding integrated water service (between 0.004 and 0.009 Euros/m3) fixed by Arera and periodically updated to sustain: costs relating to rate reductions for integrated water service and payment rates for people affected by seismic events (code UI1); upgrading the aqueduct, sewage and purification technical services (code UI2), and the water bonus (code UI3). The fees for the UI1-2-3 components have to be applied for the volumes of water, sewer and purification (always if due) for UI1 and UI2, while for UI3, the fee must be paid only on the volumes of water.Finally, there is VAT, with 10% applied to the fees, calculated as stated above, and which the user must pay.
How much does water cost? It’s a question we all ask ourselves when we receive our water bill. However, the question only makes sense if we explain a few things: we don’t pay for water as such, we pay for the cost of the activities necessary to collect the water from its sources, make it drinkable, bring it to our homes, collect it after it has been used and then depurate it.
Therefore, the right question is: <How much does it cost to ensure water reaches our homes and is later depurated without damaging the environment?>. This is why we talk about amounts owed for the services rendered.
It is worth reiterating that the water supply system (that takes water to our homes) is just one aspect of the service (however it is the one users focus on), while water depuration (everything that happens after the water leaves our homes) plays a fundamental role in protecting our invaluable water resources.
So, how much does a cubic meter of water cost? The amount owed for a cubic meter of water is calculated based on the work necessary to make those 1000 liters came out of the tap.
The amount will be higher in the areas that still require more interventions, investments and structures to ensure the service.
Due to the peculiarities of the water supply service (a single supplier in the absence of competition), it is regulated by an independent authority (ARERA) that operates on a national level and sets the “rules” to determine water tariffs, which are not set by the supplier but by auditors in an optimal territorial area, based on a “tariff system” (a combination of rules and formulas) issued by ARERA.
In simple terms, we can say that until 2011, the applicable tariff system (known as “normalized”) required the amount due for a cubic meter of water (the so called “real average tariff”) to be based on all costs (operational and investments) met by the supplier in relation to the total of cubic meters of water provided to users. The “euros/m3” relation was then corrected using a series of coefficients (that could either favor or penalize the supplier) rating different aspects of the service.
The “normalized” system was replaced by a transitional tariff system implemented in 2012; then in 2013 and 2016 the Regulatory Authority issued two new tariff systems – the second an evolution of the first – that aimed to standardize tariffs across Italy and provide the tools necessary to make the system more efficient in areas requiring more interventions.
Based on the principal that tariffs must cover all costs met by the supplier, the new systems introduce a number of parameters that ensure that the compliance to the obligations and responsibilities assumed by the supplier and the quality of the service provided are reflected in the tariffs.
The assessment of all these parameters is summarized in a tariff multiplier (represented in formulas by the Greek letter “theta”), which year after year is applied to the water tariff applicable in 2012. Currently, for Ato 5 of Frosinone “theta” does not allow for tariff increases above 8%.
The integrated water service (waterworks, sewers and purification systems) is managed locally on the level of “optimal geographical areas” (abbreviated to Ato). Basically, the Ato is a geographical area identified by the Region, sharing a single river basin or sub-river basin and management unit. Additionally, the dimensions of the Ato must meet certain criteria based on physical, technical and population-related parameters defined by the law. By law, all the municipalities that fall under a certain Ato must participate in the sole management of the water service.
Ato number 5 “Southern Lazio” of Frosinone (the one which covers most of our territory) is composed of 86 Municipalities (85 in Ciociaria and one - Campodimele - in the province of Latina).
Each Ato has its own governance body, comprised of the Provinces and Municipalities present therein. The form and operations of said governance body depend on the form of collaboration chosen by the Municipalities when they joined forces to manage the Ato.
Ato number 5 of Frosinone was created in 1996 when all the interested parties signed a cooperation agreement that appointed the Province of Frosinone as the chair of the Authority that governs the area (known as “Ega” or “or Autorità d’ambito”, also abbreviated to “A. Ato”).
There are essentially three “organs” of the governance body: the Chair (an office assigned to the president of the province of Frosinone); the Mayors’ Advisory Board (composed of 7 mayors elected by their colleagues, responsible for aiding and advising the president - the regional capital is automatically a member) and the Mayor’s Conference (composed of all the mayors of the Municipalities in the Ato, also sometimes called “Mayors’ meeting”). The meetings take place at the headquarters of the Provincial Administration. There is also a technical-administrative structure, which is responsible for overseeing and controlling the management of the water service, named the Technical-operational Office (Sto), composed of the technicians and staff of the organizations involved.
The governance body of the Ato decides which “tool” to use for the management of the water service from the formulas approved by the law. In 2001, Ato number 5 of Frosinone opted to assign this task to third parties by way of a tender. In 2003, the thirty-year contract was assigned to the company Acea Ato 5 Spa, the current water operator, and is bound to the Ato Authority by a detailed service agreement which, also through a set of Technical Regulations, dictates the rules for the management of the local waterworks, sewers and purification systems.
The other main tasks of the Ato Authority are to prepare the various plans required to manage the service, such as the intervention plan and the economic-financial plan.
The governance body, composed of the mayors, prepares the tariffs and periodic adjustments. It does this by applying the tariff method established by the National Authority for the sector (now named Arera: Energy, Grid and Environment Regulation Authority). The tariffs prepared by the Ato Authority are applied immediately even if their definitive approval is remitted to the Arera and, in case of amendments by this Authority the difference is managed as an end of period adjustment.
The Water Operator acts as the “plumber” of our networks, maintaining them and performing the works required (investments planned by the Ato Authority) to make the service more effective and efficient. All costs sustained are charged in the bill based on the mechanism by which the tariff applied must ensure the recovery of all the expenses (operating costs and investments).
Water is priceless. Water is a finite, yet essential resource for life, to which all living creatures are entitled.
So what are you paying for in your utility bill? You aren't paying for the water, in the sense of the raw material. What you're paying for is the cost of the services to collect it from the source, make it drinkable, transport it to your home and then send it back to the sewage treatment plants.
So, if we want the precious liquid to come out of the tap in your home at the turn of a knob, we all have to help pay for the cost of the service to guarantee the water reaches you.
What's more: as water is such an important resource, the more we use, the more we'll be asked to pay: this is the principle of "he who pollutes more, pays more' on which Europe bases its environmental and water service management taxes.
Who decides the cost of the service?
It isn't your water service provider who establishes the ' cost' of your water. The tariff to be applied to the various users is established by the Local Water Board Authority (AAto 5 for Frosinone), which consists of all the mayors of the Municipalities within the Ato area, based on the rules set by the Supervisory Authority for the sector (Arera) and on the basis of balance-sheet and management data provided by the service provider (Acea Ato Spa in Ciociaria), controlled by the technical structure of that Local Board (Sto). Arera then checks (and corrects where necessary) that all the assessments have been corrected.
We also have to remember another principle established by the European Union and applied to the water service, i.e. the so-called "full recovery cost", which is the obligation to use the tariff (i.e. the 'price' to apply to the cubic metres consumed) to cover everything spent on service management, including investments.
The Galli Law of 1994 was the first tariff method (the so-called 'standardised') to be applied. Essentially, it envisaged that the average tariff to be applied should be calculated by dividing the annual management costs predicted for the total volume in cubic metres invoiced to users, in order to obtain the cost per cubic metre to offer the residents served. The tariff was then divided according to the type of use and consumption time band.
This method was updated several times and today has 'evolved' with the appearance on the scene of the Regulation Authority, which has tried to align the cost of the service in the various communities throughout Italy according to the specific requirements of each area.
Nowadays, the tariff is always decided by the Local Authority and, therefore, by the mayors. It takes into account the costs for the outlay, the investments made, the quality of the water source and the service provided. It is calculated using complicated, mathematical formulas, which 'mix' the different aspects to be taken into account according to legislation. This is why water doesn't 'cost' the same in different parts of Italy, and why you can't hazard any comparison: in some areas the service has already been working effectively and efficiently for some time, with more economical investments, works and systems, resulting in lower tariffs; in other areas, the service still has to be set up and improved with work to be carried out, systems to be built and investments to be made. As all the 'costs' have to be shown on your utility bill (within insuperable limits), this is why the water tariff in those areas (e.g. Ciociaria) is more expensive.
The bill is statute barred in 5 years; starting from 2020, the deadline will be shortened to 24 months
To apply for statute barring, the consumption meter must be accessible
The bill for water consumptions or balance calculations is statute barred in 5 years (starting from 2020, as established by the 2018 Budget Law, the deadline will be brought forward to two years). The user can therefore apply for statute barring on the amounts requested once 5 years have passed if the manager has not requested payment and has not sent any deeds interrupting these terms. The same applies for bills issued as balance calculations relative to periods exceeding 5 years.
All this, however, only applies if the meter is freely accessible or if the user has himself sent in a reading, using the specific channels made available by the manager. It should, in fact, be recalled that the manager must make at least two attempts at reading per year (three if consumption exceeds 3,000 cubic metres). When the meter is not accessible, therefore, the manager shall bill “on account, subject to balance calculation”; this balance will only be calculated when it is effectively able to record the exact consumption.
To apply for statute barring, therefore, the consumption meter must be accessible to the operator and, if not, the reading must have been notified by the user. This is because if all attempted readings have been unsuccessful and the user has not proved willing to facilitate access to the meter, the manager shall not be held liable for not having ascertained the consumption and requested payment due in a timely manner. The claim for state barring will be granted each time the delay in issuing the bill for the balance calculation is due to failure to take a reading, through the fault of the Company.
The claim for statute barring will instead be rejected if the meter is located within the customer’s property and the latter has prevented the Company from accessing the meter and, therefore, recording effective consumption, or when there are any works in progress that prevent a reading from being taken. Please remember that a self-reading can be sent to Acea ATO 5 by means of: freephone number 800.639.251, this website, registering with the reserved MyAcea area, the MyAcea app, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, SMS 322.214.171.1243 or by visiting the commercial branches of Frosinone or Cassino.
Who is due the 50 litres per inhabitant per day
The benefits envisaged for families and cases when the utility cannot be disconnected
The minimum quantity of water considered as vital and necessary to satisfy essential needs is set as 50 litres per inhabitant per day, for a total of 18.25 cubic metres per year. This is what the Decree of the President of the Council of Ministers has ruled on the social water tariff in implementation of the law on the limitation of excessive use of natural resources. In another Decree, the perhaps better-known Decree of the President of the Council of Ministers of 26 August 2016 on the limitation of late payment in the integrated water service, the Government, again in compliance with the same regulation, has set limits - delegating the complete definition of the rules to ARERA, the Italian Regulatory Authority for Energy, Networks and the Environment - so that service users can access the vital minimum quantity, in particular if in conditions of social-financial hardship.
ARERA has not yet launched this regulation. However, the same Authority has, over the years, held a series of consultations with all those involved and recently prepared a guideline announcing the publication of the definitive provision this summer. In any case, it would appear clear that there is a condition of social-financial hardship each time the user has the right to the social water bonus: i.e. when they live in a family unit with an ISEE (indicator of equivalent economic position) that does not exceed 8,107.50 euros or, if having more than 3 dependent children, that does not exceed 20,000 euros. Considering only domestic residential users, the limits set by the Government in any case provide very clear directives on how the minimum quantity should be guaranteed: first and foremost, the rules prohibit the interruption of the water supply to users in a condition of social-financial hardship, who - according to the repeated intentions of ARERA - are those entitled to the water bonus. For these users, the Decree of the President of the Council of Ministers of 26 August 2016 explains: “the vital minimum quantity of 50 litres per inhabitant, per day, shall in any case be guaranteed”.
Outside these cases, all resident domestic users must in any case be guaranteed access “to the vital minimum quantity of water at a special tariff”.
Therefore, to simplify: the 50 litres per inhabitant, per day must always be supplied, whether or not the bill is paid, only to users in a condition of social-financial hardship; all others instead are entitled to 50 litres per day, paid at a special tariff. And, in fact, this same Decree specifies that the disconnection of resident domestic users is possible, outside cases of social-financial hardship, only when “failure to pay the bills exceeds an amount equal to the annual price due in connection with the volume of the special bracket”. In any case, it should be recalled that before suspending supply, the Manager is required to make a series of preventive communications, to ensure formal notice of default and, if the user intends to settle their position, to agree to payment schedules by instalments.
Finally, it should be recalled that during this transitional stage, ARERA itself has envisaged, again for residential domestic users, billing by default as three members (the standard average family), setting 1 January 2022 as the cut-off date to allow managers to acquire data in order to align the billing systems to the actual members of the family units, thereby ensuring the effective per capita tariff.
Benefits and who is entitled
Major savings for families
How to submit the applications to obtain them
Starting July 2018, the “water social bonus” can be requested for the supply of water for domestic residential use. This is a direct benefit for families in a situation of financial hardship and aims to reduce the cost of the aqueduct service. The measure is envisaged by the Decree of the President of the Council of Ministers of 13 October 2016 and subsequently implemented by provisions of ARERA, the Italian Regulatory Authority for Energy, Networks and the Environment.
The benefit envisages a free minimum quantity of water per person, per year, of 50 litres per day (18.25 cubic metres of water per year), set as the minimum level necessary to satisfy essential requirements. The bonus will guarantee, for example, that a family of four will not need to pay for 73 cubic metres of water each year. The benefit is due to direct and indirect users of the aqueduct service who are in a condition of social-financial hardship, i.e. who live in family units with an ISEE of no more than 8,107.5 euros or, if with at least 4 dependent children, with an ISEE of no more than 20,000 euros.
The term “direct users” is applied to mean the end user, who is the holder of a residential domestic supply contract; an “indirect user” is instead a member of the family unit making use, in the place of residence, of an aqueduct service supply contracted in the name of a condominium utility.
In order to obtain the bonus, an application must be submitted, in the form of a statutory declaration, to the council of residence or any other entity as may have been designated by the council to this end (CAF, mountain communities, etc.). The forms to request the benefit are available from the ARERA website, from www.sgate.anci.it or by consulting the dedicated page and the area government entity. The water bonus can also be requested together with that envisaged for electricity and gas and is granted for a period of 12 months. At the end of this period, if still meeting the necessary requirements, the user must renew the request.
New regulation approved for the bonus thanks to the agreement reached between Acea Ato 5, the Area Authority and OTUC
An end to maxi bills generated by hidden losses. By agreement with the Area Authority and OTUC, Acea Ato 5 has established a specific procedure - now also incorporated into an Ato regulation - by means of which the user of the water service and ask that excess consumption be recalculated if generated by a loss on the internal water network (i.e. that downstream of the meter and for which responsibility lies with the user), of which he had not been aware.
The loss, even once repaired, must be ascertained by the Manager.
The user concerned shall submit a request through one of the channels made available to this end (e-mail, certified e-mail, commercial branches or ordinary mail), on the specific form available from the dedicated page.
The recalculation of consumption will impact the aqueduct portion, according to the type of user and regularity of reading attempts. Instead, as regards the portion relative to the water/sewage treatment services (if supplied), the user will only pay on the basis of past consumption.
It is important that the user provides the effective reading at the time of the repair, to allow for the correct recalculation of the bill. If it should be revealed that the hidden loss comes under the exclusive liability of the manager, the cost exceeding the past consumption will be paid in full by Acea ATO 5.
As regards the aqueduct portion (whether or not the meter is accessible, whether or not there have been readings or attempted readings or whether it has been self-read), the relief procedure establishes that the user shall: 1) in any case pay past consumption at the normal tariff; 2) also pay for the consumption that exceeds past logs (presumably generated by the loss) at the cost of only the beneficial tariff, halved, for up to 6 months.
Only if the meter is inaccessible and there have been regular attempts to take readings made by Acea Ato 5, which have been unsuccessful and not through the fault of the manager, will the user pay for: 1) past consumption at normal tariff; 2) all consumption exceeding past logs, for the entire period between the last valid reading and the ascertainment of the hidden loss, recalculated at the cost of the special tariff, halved.
The provision, desired by Ato, has been extended through to June and should help those who have been misled by pseudo-committees
Until this coming 30 June, users of the water service who are severely behind in making payments due to having been misled by pseudo citizen committees, can apply for a specific debt settlement procedure activated by Acea ATO 5, on the specific request of the Area Authority. The measure, in fact, which had been set to expire last 31 March, has now been extended to half-way through the year.
The initiative is sparked from a specific report made by the ATO 5 to the water Manager whereby “major affluence of users (...)” was noted, “which, although today in default, express the desire to settle their debt (...), at the same time declaring that the non-payment was, unfortunately, recommended to them by alleged citizen committees of which they are members. As these users had been caught up in good faith and poorly advised, it is considered that they should be helped with the application of extraordinary procedures that do not penalise them further”.
Acea Ato 5, in acting as the diligent party and again by agreement with the Area Authority, has therefore envisaged conditions of additional, favourable benefits for users finding themselves in such a position, extending by around 30%, for each year of age of the debt, the duration of the applicable breakdown of payments into instalments, which, therefore, according to the amount and year of reference, may even reach 22 months. This opportunity has been offered to both residential domestic users and non-residential domestic users or those of mixed use, as in the case of utilities discontinued due to non-payment.
To date, numerous users that had made this mistake, have been able to benefit from the system and settle their debt without incurring the more serious consequences envisaged by the service settlement (such as disconnection of supply and closure of the contract) as well as the forced collection of the outstanding amounts. With the extension through to this coming 30 June, the same opportunity is given to all users who are again asking to settle the debt position brought about by incorrect advice and unrealistic expectations suggested by pseudo citizen committees.