Water is No Commodity

Our weekly feature article from Mirada Global:

The access to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation is a basic human right, declared the UN General Assembly in 2010. Yet, less consensus exists generally on the question whether the operation of water supply should be organized privately or by public authorities. The controversy is not new, but gains more and more attention. In Italy, a law that should pave the way to the privatization of water supply in June 2012 was rejected by an overwhelming majority of citizens through referendum.

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In most cases, privatization efforts are not aimed at converting the entire supply structure such as wells, water tanks, piping systems, etc. in private ownership. The core of the discussion deals with the many attempts to organize the management of the water supply via the private sector through (temporary) concessions. Proponents of liberalization argue that private enterprises deliver these services in a more efficient and less expensive way than public companies do —a hypothesis however that to this day lacks empirical evidence—.

It is estimated that about 200 million people worldwide (six percent of the global urban population) are supplied from facilities which are publicly owned, but managed by private companies. About 70 million people are supplied by institutions that are fully privately-financed property (particularly England and Wales, parts of Chile, and the US).

The increasing penetration of private actors into water service, particularly in the 1980s and 1990s, that appeared as profitable business has since raised concerns about increasing prices and declining supply quality, primarily in poor rural regions. As private companies pursue business interests rather than common economic goals, they cannot be suitable for providing people with basic social services such as clean water supply, sceptics say.

Read the rest here. Also available in Spanish.

Tim Reidy

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
Tom Maher
6 years 10 months ago
Once again we get the unheard of perspectives of Miranda Global that are very rare in  American journalism.   Unfortuanety the United States traditionally has a robust intellectual life that has long ago heard of and rejected imany of the fringe ideas contained in this  Miranda Global article.  For example , how many Americans would embrace the bold assertion made in the second paragraph of this article that it was just a hypothsis with no empirical evidence that private enterprises deliver water services  more efficiently and less expensivly than public companies do? 

The underlying problem with this article is it fails tor econgnize that water is indeed an scarce economic resource requiring hugh amounts of time and effort to continuously collect and distribute reliably and safely.   Any romanticized sprirtual aspect of water does not lessen the real efforts and labor needed to make this resource available.  The need for water should not be limited govenment controlled water companies. 

Any economic need should ?b?e? ?m?e?e?t? ?b?y? ????e???n???c???o???u???r???a???g??i?n?g? ?t?h?e?? ?f?u?l?l???? ??p?a?r?t?i?c?i?p?a?t?i?o?n? of ???????????????????????????????????????????private owne?rship? ?a?n?d? ?e?n?t?e?r?p?r?i?s?e?.? ????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????
Stanley Kopacz
6 years 10 months ago
I pump mine out of the ground.  I don't need any capitalist company to do it for me.  Of course, that may change when the other piggies decide to poison my water supply via fracking with secret chemicals.  It's not smart or healthy to spoil the water of too many people.

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