Global water scarcity will intensify the privatisation of water resources

Posted: Thursday 18th September 2014

Local collectives should control the world’s shrinking water supplies rather than multinational companies, according to University of Leicester expert Dr Georgios Patsiaouras.

The world’s water reserves will increasingly fail to meet our needs over the coming decades, leaving a third of the global population without adequate drinking water by 2025, according to University of Leicester experts Dr Georgios Patsiaouras, Professor Michael Saren and Professor James Fitchett.

Local communities should be given control over the water in their area in order to stop private companies profiteering from shrinking global water supplies, says Dr Patsiaouras, Lecturer in Marketing and Consumption at the University of Leicester's School of Management.

Ahead of World Water Week 2014, in a new research paper Dr Patsiaouras argues that increased competition for water from both the public and from industry will make it likely that a privatised, market-based water system will develop, controlled by private companies.

He predicts that nations will begin to sell key water sources – such as lakes, rivers and groundwater reserves – to companies. This will mean the supply of water around the world will soon resemble the market for oil and minerals.

Dr Patsiaouras said: “Increased competition between nations and institutions for access to clean water will create a global marketplace for buying, selling and trading water resources.”

“There will be an increase in phenomena such as water transfer, water banking and mega-engineering desalination plants emerging as alternative and competing means of managing water supply.”

This new water economy will only work in the favour of countries and communities that can afford to bid the highest amounts for water – while poorer and drought-stricken countries might see water supplies becoming even more scarce, Dr Patsiaouras warns.

To avoid this, he argues that control over water should be localised, with communities taking control over lakes and other water sources in their area, giving priority to public health over profit.

Dr Patsiaouras says the potential for community-based and cooperative alternatives for handling water supply needs to be closely examined.

He said: “Community-based water management offers an alternative solution to market-based and state-based failures.

“Although the majority of governments around the world have chosen hybrid water supply delivery models – where water supplies are controlled by both the state and private companies - the role and importance of culture and community in sustainable market development has been woefully under-examined. “

Transforming water into a global commodity is a dangerous move since water is essential for human survival, he adds.

“Cooperative alternatives have offered and will continue to offer viable solutions for the Global South, especially in light of the fact that conventional delivery systems have tended to favour the interests of wealthy citizens and affluent neighbourhoods,” he said.

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