Productivity change in the water industry in England and Wales: application of the meta-Malmquist Index

M.C.A.S. Portela, E. Thanassoulis, A. Horncastle, T. Maugg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper uses a meta-Malmquist index for measuring productivity change of the water industry in England and Wales and compares this to the traditional Malmquist index. The meta-Malmquist index computes productivity change with reference to a meta-frontier, it is computationally simpler and it is circular. The analysis covers all 22 UK water companies in existence in 2007, using data over the period 1993–2007. We focus on operating expenditure in line with assessments in this field, which treat operating and capital expenditure as lacking substitutability. We find important improvements in productivity between 1993 and 2005, most of which were due to frontier shifts rather than catch up to the frontier by companies. After 2005, the productivity shows a declining trend. We further use the meta-Malmquist index to compare the productivities of companies at the same and at different points in time. This shows some interesting results relating to the productivity of each company relative to that of other companies over time, and also how the performance of each company relative to itself over 1993–2007 has evolved. The paper is grounded in the broad theory of methods for measuring productivity change, and more specifically on the use of circular Malmquist indices for that purpose. In this context, the contribution of the paper is methodological and applied. From the methodology perspective, the paper demonstrates the use of circular meta-Malmquist indices in a comparative context not only across companies but also within company across time. This type of within-company assessment using Malmquist indices has not been applied extensively and to the authors’ knowledge not to the UK water industry. From the application perspective, the paper throws light on the performance of UK water companies and assesses the potential impact of regulation on their performance. In this context, it updates the relevant literature using more recent data.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2173-2188
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of the Operational Research Society
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 30 Mar 2011


  • productivity
  • Malmquist index
  • DEA
  • water companies


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