The world's population is averaging a growth rate of around 1.1% annually. This is creating a greater demand for improved water supplies and sanitation, especially in developing countries and urban areas. As stronger population growth is generally observed in these regions. They may also have more challenging requirements to meet the water target under the UN's Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). A target of reducing ‘the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and sanitation' for eligible countries by half by 2015.
To meet the growing demand for safe water and sanitation private sector involvement will be needed in the water sector has increased. This is in the context of the developing countries. There is also a demand for repair to existing infrastructure and plants, and new facilities in the developed world. Due to the investment involved and expertise needed. The share of private companies in the water and wastewater market is forecast to increase from 8% of the global population in 2003 to 17% in 2015. A problem for the water industry is that water is perceived as a right and citizens are less willing to pay for water than they are for electricity.
Opposition to privatisation of the water sector is strong in some countries and the subject is conten-tious. The renationalisation of some assets has occurred with major water companies paying fines failing to comply with their contract, usually in terms of investment in infrastructure. In some countries there are moves to make water privatisation illegal. For example, there is a water privatisation ban in the Netherlands and Uruguay, and a draft law to make water privatisation illegal is under development in Italy. There has been an increase in Public-to-Public Partnerships (PUP) contracts for water projects, and the World Bank is softening its approach towards privatisation. The recent Arab spring also included protests against water privatisation. For example, in Rabat and Tetouan in Morocco there were demonstrations to terminate Veolia's contracts and Veolia's offices in Tanger were set on fire.
In many countries, major water companies such as Veolia and Suez are involved in joint ventures to develop projects. Recently, Veolia publically announced that it plans to expand worldwide mostly through build-own-transfer (BOT) and management contracts, with fewer ‘ownership' projects.
Key countries for the water sector in terms of future investments are China and India. A total of RMB 15 billion ($2.2 billion) was spent on sewage treatment facilities in the first half of 2010 in China alone.