Water privatization is a complex, crucial component of sustainability that requires a multifaceted approach involving different sectors that affect the various areas that it concerns.

(Structured Water Technologies Official Website).

What is water privatization?

Simply put, researchers from Pacific Institute for Studies in Development, Environment, and Security define water privatization as “a process of transferring legal public authority of water resources to the private sector,” which then is liable to manage, produce, and distribute the water just as other economic goods (i). In recent years, following a “worldwide trend toward privatization,” many private companies have taken started assuming management of municipal water systems (Giess abstract).

Why is it controversial?
The United States is experiencing a controversial trend towards privatization of public water services. This controversy stems from the idea of water as a basic human right. All life depends on water, so all life should have access to this natural resource. On the other hand, water as a resource and a service is fully integrated into social and economic systems: “Therefore, all communities, social and political systems, and economies depend on this finite resource for survival and vitality” (Arnold 789). Just as individuals need water to survive, many businesses and economies need water as a resource to exist.

Some people resist on principle, believing that water should be in the public domain. Others turn against privatization when prices rise or water quality decreases. The problem, however, is that those leading the conversation and the decision to privatize are those in power, those with money, those benefitting from privatization.

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Expressed as a cartoon: Bottled water, dangled in front of but not in possession of multiple people, held strong in the hand of one big, firm, man. (Sidhu).

The United States and Water Privatization 

The amount of all public water services in the United States provided by privately-owned water suppliers is relatively small. They serve about 15% of U.S. water customers (measured in volume of water handled), take in about 14% of total water revenues, and hold about 11% of all water system assets in the United States (Arnold 791). However, this private control and ownership of local water supply has increased dramatically since the 1980s. This growing increase stems from the control of political forces and public policies which are in favor of privatization for their own personal benefits.

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(Water Wars 2: Privatization).

What will be discussed?

In this exploratory blog, the controversy of the privatization of water will be analyzed through two case studies, one on water as a bottled commodity and one on water as a natural public resource. The first exposes a former Nestlé CEO who took a contended public stance on the topic, and the second a place-specific example exemplifying the realistic effects of such practice. Following acadmeic integrity, the counterargument will be provided. However, the goal is to demonstrate what the controversy is, why it exists, and why there is more harm than benefits from the privatization of water.