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Can it be ethical to buy and sell water, something so important for human life? I won't answer this question outright, but I will bring to bear the perspective of

Can it be ethical to buy and sell water, something so important for human life?  I won't answer this question outright, but I will bring to bear the perspective of an economist on it.

 

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user's picture

I agree with you! We should not act as if public institutions wouldn´t exist, like private companies solve the problem or nothing will be done. I think in most parts of the world water services are provided by public institutions or public companies with probably some defecs in efficiency, but their aim is to provide cheap and clean water contrary to a for-profit company whos main aim is profit. Service quality might also lower if there is no competition who offers this service.

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A big problem appears in the use of underground repositories of water, which are the most common supply in dry regions and nobody knows well the real amount and the dynamic of recharge. Many farmers just drill a pit if they can afford it and extract as much as they can with no kind of rights. This is a very common problem both in Chile and Peru where the "illegal" extraction is huge and almost impossible to regulate. I have mixed feelings on this topic: by one hand they are using a scarce resource that eventually will be exhausted, by other hand I wonder if makes any sense "to store" of keep unused this water just to "save it" in the same way than Bolivia and other countries "save" their mineral resources. I think I am not against the over exploitation of underground water provided that those water is used in the activity who create most value. And the only incentive for that is price, but is not easy to enforce in a world where water is seen as a public good, even where it is scarce.

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As almost every global scarcity, the water issue is a problem of distribution. Geography matters, and tecnology and infrastucture matters!

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Maybe because U.S. Germany and UK are not mostly desert countries. Water is not globally scarce but there are specific countries and places where the water is not abundant and acquires economic value so as conflictive uses. I guess that in most of Canada or South of Chile water has not been a big deal, but in desert things change. And coincidently desert zones tend to be the poorest

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Governments are coerced?!?!?!?

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Well, water has been always a public good except when is REALLY scarce, what is privatized is not water but the infrastructure tho extract, distribute and dispose of the black waters. All those infrastructure has never been "public good" it is evident that are economic goods even if they are owned by the state it requires big investments and users must pay it in one way or another.When the government mange those infrastructure that not implies that will be "for free" for users but simply that the way in which is financed is discretionary determined by government officers: some pay more and others pay less than their real consumption at political wish of government. It is true that state usually has made huge investments (with taxpayer money of course) and is also true that managed by state the quality of service has been historically bad, that is why administration has been privatized in many countries. Results has not been good in all cases, but this is usually due lacks of procedure or clear rules or political will to support the transition from the government.

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