European Water Networks

A drainage and water system is shaped by the country it resides in. From the Victorian sewage system in London to the historic sewers in Vienna, we take a look at drainage systems around Europe.

1. France: 800,000 km

2. The United Kingdom: 625,000 km
3. Germany: 515,000 km
4. Austria: 390,000 km
5. Spain: 390,000 km
6. Poland: 165,000 km
7. Italy: 164,473 km
8. Portugal: 110,000 km
9. Belgium: 101,026 km
10. Norway: 94,600 km
11. Sweden: 92,000 km
12. Switzerland: 90,000 km
13. The Netherlands: 90,000 km
14. Bulgaria: 72,000 km
15. Ireland: 30,000 km
16. Finland: 350 km

390,000 km
Austria’s water system

Austria has two associations in the water service sector: the Austrian Association for Gas and Water (ÖVGW) and the Austrian Water and Waste Management Association (ÖWAV). ÖVGW has a long history. Founded in 1881, this non-profit organisation represents Austrian water supply industries and their associated sectors.

A historic network of passages, Vienna’s sewer system dates back to the mid-1800s.
Today, 99% per cent of all Viennese households are connected to the city’s 2,400 km sewer network. Every day, 15 tonnes of sewage deposits are removed from the sewers to ensure a seamless operation of the sewer system.


390,000 km
Sewers of Barcelona

Barcelona’s sewer system dates as far back as 1364 when medieval architects expanded on the sewers and ran water beneath the city’s most famous street, La Rambla. In 1886, Spanish engineer, Pere Garcia Faria designed the first modern sewers in the city which were later expanded on and connected with the sewers of previous eras.

Source: /


94,600 km

Norway’s municipalities have in total 43 000 km water mains, 35 900 km sewers (included combined sewers) and 15 700 km stormwater drains. The municipalities own the majority of the water and wastewater infrastructure in Norway with 180 000 km of privately owned house connections.

Source: Norwegian Water


101,026 km

Belgium's wastewater system has grown rapidly since the Millenium. In 2001, the country had 511 wastewater treatment plants servicing around 6.6 million inhabitants. In 2003, the number of wastewater treatment plants operated by the country had risen to 541 and by 2005, the length of the drinking water network was a lengthy 101,026 km with 4 million connections. The exponential growth resulted in over 90% of the population being connected to sewers and 47% of the population with its wastewater treated in a public wastewater treatment plant.



350 km 

A relatively short wastewater system, Finland’s water mains network is around 270 km with the length of the stormwater sewer network at 120km. On average, a total of 2,050,000 m3 of household water is pumped into the water mains network. The Kullaanvumori wastewater treatment plant in Western Finland treats a total of 3,700,000 m3 of wastewater per year while the Siuro wastewater treatment plant in Pirkanmaa treats 300,000 m3.



165,000 km

By 2019, Poland’s sewage network reached the length of 165.1 thousand km, and the number of connections to residential buildings increased to a huge 3.5 million. Compared to the previous year, the length of the newly built or reconstructed sewage network increased by approximately 4.4 thousand km with the highest sewage network density observed in śląskie – 132 km per 100 km2.


72,000 km

Joining the EU in 2007 meant stricter environmental standards and regulations were imposed on Bulgaria, resulting in some changes to their water supply status. The total length of the water supply network spans 72,000km with 11 water reservoirs and 9,800 water resources for drinking water. There are also 55 drinking water treatment plants with the total productivity of 480,506.000 m3/annually.



800,000 km

In 2008 there were 15,250 water treatment plants and 17,300 wastewater treatment plants in France.

The wastewater treatment plants produced about one million tons of sludge, half of which is being used in agriculture. The water and sewer network is about 800,000 km long.

Sources: According to the French version of this article at Eau potable en France

France has more than five million private wastewater treatment systems with a water and sewer network of roughly 800,000km in length. In France, every residential zone of more than 2,000 inhabitants has the obligation to have a municipal wastewater treatment plant. As of 2008, there were 17,300 wastewater treatment plants producing around 1 million tonnes of sludge, half of which is used in agriculture. 


90,000 km


With its 1500 lakes and countless streams, Switzerland not only benefits from abundant valuable freshwater resources but the quality of their water is considered microbiologically sound from a chemical point of view. This is largely attributed to the comprehensive water protection efforts that have been made in the last few decades, high-quality raw water resources and sophisticated water treatment processes rarely required by other countries.

Around 750 large-scale and 3500 small-scale sewage treatment plants and 90,000 km of sewage pipes ensure almost complete coverage for the removal and comprehensive treatment of wastewater.



30,000 km


Irish Water operates a network of wastewater treatment plants where over a billion litres of wastewater is collected every day in approximately 30,000 kilometres of sewers. This is treated at one of the 1,100 wastewater treatment plants available across Ireland and then discharged into rivers, lakes and coastal waters.

However, Ireland’s water system came into controversy in late 2020, when the Environmental Protection Agency revealed a damning report that raw sewage from 35 towns and villages across the State continues to be discharged into nearby waters. In all 33 areas, there were no clear plans for the towns and villages on the list to receive wastewater treatment until an undetermined date after 2021.



92,000 km

With over 2000 publicly owned sewage treatment plants and a total sewage system length of over 100,000km, Sweden is well equipped to deal with the technical aspects required for running a comprehensive water supply and wastewater treatment service. The works treat sanitary sewage, stormwater from combined systems, drainage and infiltrated water.

The total length of the sewers amounts to 92,000 km, of which 32,000 consists of stormwater sewers. This gives an average of 12 metres per connected individual. However, one of the major issues with Sweden’s water networks is the increased running costs.



515,000 km

Germany’s drinking water network is estimated to be over 500,000 km in length. The length of the sewer network in 2004 was estimated by the Federal Statistical Office to be 515,000 km, divided into 238,000 km of combined sewers with a water volume of 5.1 billion m3.

When it comes to Germany’s public wastewater disposal, the country has almost 10,000 wastewater treatment plants with a 10.1 billion m3 of treated wastewater volume and 66,000 stormwater discharge systems.,238%2C000%20km%20of%20combined%20sewers



164,473 km

As of 2008, Italy’s water network was 337,459 km in length, while their sewer network stretched to 164,473 km. In 2012, there were 18,786 wastewater treatment plants in Italy, of which 18,162 (97%) were in operation. Out of 542 municipalities with a total of 2.3 million people (4% of the population) had no sewerage.



The United Kingdom 
625,000 km


The UK’s sewer industry processes over 16 billion litres of wastewater each day from residential, municipal, commercial and industrial premises through more than 625,000 kilometres of sewerage pipes. Typically sewerage companies provide three main services: surface water drainage, foul drainage and highway drainage, while industry operators are responsible for building, maintaining and improving main sewers, pumping stations and wastewater treatment facilities.



The Netherlands 
90,000 km

In the Netherlands collection and transport of wastewater from households to sewage treatment plants happens through the public sewer system. With more than 90,000 kilometres of sewer lines, the responsibility falls to the municipal governments. Once transported to the sewage treatment plants, the foul water is treated and purified at one of the Netherlands 25 district water boards that together manage 350 sewage treatment plants.