Infographic redesign (2): Water price of selected cities

On Twitter I came across this infographic by Nicolas Rapp showing water prices in selected cities:

I find this a very interesting topic, but struggeled to reasily read through the graphic and compare different cities with one another or to derive any patterns from it.

  • at first you have to find city A > follow the line to the water prize bubble > then memorize the water price >find city B  on the map > follow the line to the water price bubble > look at it’s water price, hopefully remember the one from A…if I try that I have to look from one back to the other several times
  • that almost leads to my next problem: there are too many bubbles – I think it would have helped to not mark location of cities with bubbles as well, but with a square or whatever. Additionally, it would also help, if the city-location-bubble (or -square) had another colour than the water prize bubbles (which might be because of corporate design issues, but it’s really not helpful at all)
  • and last, I’d like to question the whole bubble thing at all. I know they are quite famous, I know, it look kind of nice – but it doesn’t make comparisons easier, as we’re used to compare heighths – not surface areas. Especially as the range of all values is not that big and water prices differentiate by very accurate amounts – look at Berlin and Copenhagen for example. The price differs by almost one dollar, but the bubbles „appear“ to have more or less almost the same size.

For these reasons I decided to have my own try. However, I couldn’t find the data source Rapp was using (if anyone came across that or such data, please let me know in the comments!), which is why I then extracted it from his graphic and put in into a spreadsheet (also in case anyone else want to have a go on it).

I know, bar charts are not the most beautiful way of visuaziling information, but in this case it appeals to me as the most practible way. First thing I did was an overall ranking of all cities:

Water price overall rankingMost of the outcome is quite expectable, I would say – like having cities from Australia, Europe and North America on top of the ranking. Aside, I think it is remarkable that water price in Miami and Cape town is about the same. Also of interest: How can water in Jeddah be so cheap? One could go ahead and digg further into the water abundance, usage etc. of that city.

But from this graphic you still cannot properly read any patterns like regional trends for example. So I did a second bar chart for which I grouped cities of the same country together and then ranked among these groups:

Water price overall ranking by regionAgain, there is no really suprising outcome to observe, but at least it is easier to make comparisons.

What do you think of the original graphic and the redesigns? Have you another way of visualisation in mind instead of a map?


7 Gedanken zu “Infographic redesign (2): Water price of selected cities

  1. Hey Gianna, you could normalize it by the mean income in the different countries… Perhaps also take the mean water consumption into account (which percentage of the income is spend on water consumption) – however, the water consumption would have to be considered for each city, I suppose. A general problem is that you don’t get the same water quality per dollar in the cities…

    Keep me/us updated!


    • Hi Hinnerk! Thanks for your input. I’m not so sure about normalizing by the mean income of each country as that in cities is higher than the country’s average I suppose. But perhaps there are income data per city availiable.
      Water consumption is a good point, too – I would not have thought that this could have an substantial impact on the pricing for water, but you think it does?


      • Hey Gianna,

        surely, data on income in different cities would be fine – however, average values for the countries would also allow to judge the water price in relation to the prosperity of a country. You could – for example – plot the number of liters an average citizen could buy from his monthly income…

        By taking the consumption into account, you could assess which percentage of the income is spent for water (on average).

        This could be interesting to see – with some surprises, since the water price is somehow unreal. In water-rich countries like Germany, it is spent on the water treatment and infrastructure; this depends mostly on political decisions and not on the actual consumption (if more water is used, the price could drop since the costs are mostly fixed expenses).
        Probably, the price in Jeddah is also so low due to subsidies…

        Colleagues of me should be experts on these issues – I can chat with them during the next days.

        All the best

      • Hey Hinnerk,
        sorry that it took me so long to come back to you on this. However, I did the plots you suggested, but most strikingly, there are no correlations or patterns. Which is not such a nice result in terms of #dataviz, but though an interesting story worth telling ;) so thanks for your impulse.

    • Ok – thanks for the feedback anyway! In case you have the plots as pdf files – or such that they can be send easily – feel welcome to forward them!

      Panta rhei

    • Hi Gökhan, sorry, I can’t. When I did that redesign, I tried to locate the primary data source, but couldn’t find it. That’s why I just used the data straight from the original graphics.

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