Remunicipalization and the Right to Water

Authors: David McDonald*, Queen's University
Topics: Water Resources and Hydrology, Political Geography, Urban Geography
Keywords: remunicipalization, water, rights
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/13/2018
Start / End Time: 1:20 PM / 3:00 PM
Room: Maurepas, Sheraton, 3rd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Cities around the world are ‘remunicipalizing’ their water services by taking them back into public ownership and management after years of private sector control. The rationale for remunicipalization is diverse, however, ranging from dissatisfaction with private sector service quality and infrastructure investment, to the high costs of monitoring and regulating private contracts, to abrupt departures of private companies before contracts end, and a lack of (credible) bidders for private contracts. So too is there a diverse ideological rationale for remunicipalization: autocratic states seeking control of key sectors of the economy; social-democratic governments pushing for a more equitable distribution of resources within a market framework; pragmatic conservative bureaucrats looking for cost savings; anti-capitalist states and civil society movements searching for non-commodified forms of water delivery; and autonomist movements seeking alternative ways of delivering water that are not controlled by the state or corporate interests. The objective of this paper is to investigate how (and if) the language of the ‘right to water’ has been employed by these diverse remunicipalization movements, how this rights discourse fits with different political and ideological dynamics, and what the prospects are for a (progressive) rights narrative with remunicipalization efforts in the future. The chapter will draw on existing case study evidence as well as a recently-collected data set on all known examples of water remunicipalization from around the world. It will be supplemented with interviews with experts in the field.

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