Do people have an inalienable right to have water? A related question is "do people have an inalienable right to clean
water?" Preparing water to drink takes resources, resources that have
alternative uses and, thus, costs. In short, clean water is subject to
the scarcity problem, a problem that needs solving. So, it is not so much that people have a right to clean water, it's that they want and need clean water. And while politicians and activists do what they do, people obtain drinkable water despite them.
Violent protests have driven away corporate investment in
desperately needed municipal water systems in developing nations. So
the world's poor buy bottled water from Coke, Pepsi and other
Last November, Alex at Marginal Revolution wrote this post on the effects of water privatization in Argentina during the 1990's. The abstract from the paper Alex wrote about is:
While most countries are committed to increasing access
to safe water and thereby reducing child mortality, there is little
on how to actually improve water services. One important proposal under
is whether to privatize water provision. In the 1990s Argentina
on one of the largest privatization campaigns in the world, including
the privatization of local water
companies covering approximately 30 percent of the country’s
Using the variation in ownership of water provision across time and
by the privatization process, we find that child mortality fell 8
the areas that privatized their water services and that the effect was
largest (26 percent) in the poorest areas. We check the robustness of
these estimates using cause-specific mortality.
While privatization is associated with significant reductions in deaths
infectious and parasitic diseases, it is uncorrelated with deaths from
unrelated to water conditions.
Seems as though Argentinian officials have had, as it were, a change of heart:
Argentina has terminated its contract with Aguas
Argentinas, a company partly owned by French utility group Suez, to
supply drinking water to Buenos Aires.
The government said Aguas had failed to meet its
contractual obligations and had reneged on its pledge to improve the
quality of the water it supplied.
Seems as all this started with a change in government policy to control exchange rates:
Aguas Argentinas' troubles began during the economic
turmoil of 2001-2002, when the government was forced to abandon its
policy of holding the Argentine peso at parity with the US dollar.
The utility's charges were forcibly converted from dollars into devalued pesos and frozen by law.
Might, perhaps, an unintended consequence of the exchange rate policy change be that child mortality in Argentina would rise?