77. The overall performance of water and wastewater services, in terms of their quality and efficiency, varies widely in the region, but is generally below international good practices. In the last 20 years, however, positive trends have been registered on a number of dimensions, showing that utilities in the region are slowly converging toward international standards. The overall performance of utilities appears largely driven by the country’s own level of development, with EU members generally leading the way. However, a more detailed analysis also sheds further light on the drivers of utility performance.

78. This chapter covers services provided by formal utility companies (“public supply”), which represent about three-quarters of the population in the region (see Chapter IV). Unfortunately, little information is available about the performance, quality, or even costs of informal providers (community or village systems and self-supplied households), which represent one-quarter of the population. Further work on understanding those services will be necessary in the future. However, whenever possible and meaningful, the figures in this chapter include the weighted average for EU members (blue), EU candidate countries (green), and non-EU countries (red), as well as good practices (in green and taken as the 90 percent top percentile of best-performing utilities in the region).

79. Most of the information in this chapter is derived from two sources, a country-by-country effort conducted under this review to collect publicly available country-level data about service performance (cited as SoS data collection and referenced individually in the country tables at the end of the document), and the large dataset available from the International Benchmarking Network (IBNET) / DANUBIS database, which covers more than 450 utilities and close to 3,400 observations between 1995 and 2013. Both sources entail potential data challenges. Country-level data usually do not offer long time series, and present an average, rather than the entire spectrum of data. In addition, the quality of the data varies significantly, and is limited in those countries that do not have an independent regulatory agency collecting utility performance data. Furthermore, IBNET / DANUBIS data do not systematically include all utility companies (highest coverage is in Albania, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Kosovo, and Moldova); therefore, trends and averages might not be fully representative of the overall sector. Finally, as discussed in the last section, the country-level averages mask a high heterogeneity among companies within the same country. The exact sources and values of the indicators and data mentioned in the text are listed in full in the tables at the end of this document, and the methodological approach for this chapter’s analysis is detailed in methodological notes also at the end of this document.