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Should water supplies be in private hands?
Should water supplies be in private hands?
There are a couple of water supply related things in the news this week. The NGO GRAIN has published a report on Africa warning that large scale land grabs for export orientated agriculture will increase water stress on the continent. Land, and more importantly the water that comes with it, is being bought by companies and countries with financial muscle locals cant match. The result will be Africans being robbed of their access to fresh water.
And rather closer to home (for the UK IDEA office at any rate) there has been Flooding in wales and South East England which will mean that hosepipe bans as a result of drought are likely to be lifted. The drought conditions brought up questions of whether the UK needs a national water grid, something which would be expensive and might be very difficult to coordinate given the privatization of the water network.
Both these examples highlight some problems with water being considered to be just another commodity that can be bought and sold. The first is that privatization may be useful when everyone has relatively equal resources to spend on water but it can be very damaging when there are some who cant compete and may be denied water as a result. The second shows the problems created by natural monopolies – there is little incentive to invest and create a national grid especially as not all the companies cover areas where there have been water shortages.
Debatabase debate: This House would privatize the supply of water http://idebate.org/debatabase/debates/environment-animal-welfare/house-would-privatize-supply-water
48 weeks 2 days ago
Private investment is the answer in both of these cases. The UK is the more obvious of the two; without private capital where is the money going to come from for making such a big project when the government has too much debt and is trying to cut its deficit? Only the private water companies have the deep pockets and the incentive to invest to prevent future droughts.
In Africa the case is rather different. However even here the market is part of the answer, the companies that are buying the land should not assume that the water comes with it allowing them to be charged for the water resources they use. This will prevent these companies from wasting water so helping to ensure there is enough. The result will then be investment and jobs but also probably improvements to the water system in the area as the companies and countries that want to develop the land will need to water that land.
48 weeks 1 day ago
I disagree, water would seem to me to be very much a public common good. As something that is vital to life it is something where distribution should be reletively even regardless of the wealth of the people involved. Allowing private ownership of water, particularly by foreigners who do not actually need the water to survive, will potentially will leave some without enough water either for themselves or for their livlihood. We should remember that Africa already has a lot of areas that are water stressed and has a rapidly growing population, these people should be catered for by the continents natural resources first.
48 weeks 23 hours ago
I see I failed to add my customary links to tell you where the news was from: so link to the report by GRAIN http://www.grain.org/article/entries/4516-squeezing-africa-dry-behind-every-land-grab-is-a-water-grab and the lifting of hosepipe bans in the UKhttp://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-18419163
47 weeks 3 days ago
As water services are seen as such a key public service, water privatization is often controversial. Even the figures about how many people receive water from the private sector: One source claims that 909 million people were served by "private players" in 2011 globally, up from 681 million people in 2007.
28 weeks 17 hours ago