Is water a human right?

I’m not sure what to take away from two links I came across this morning. First, theres a piece on the Huffington Post linking Bolivia’s water war to a failure of “Trickle-Down Economics.” I had a hard time following Charlie Cray’s thought processes along, as I could not find any distinct threads tying together the entire piece beyond “corporations and markets are inherently evil”. Do privatization and free-markets only work for certain resources? I.e, it works for telecommunications but not water? I’m not convinced. My mostly uneducated guess is that market solutions were implemented hastily and that corruption played more of a role in these failures.

Which leads us to the second link, public citizen’s Water for All campaign. Now, clearly water is a necessity for life and without it, well the chances of death are pretty certain. But does this elevate water into a “human right”. By that logic isn’t food a human right? Anyway the reasons given for opposing water privatization are:

Water privatization schemes throughout the world have a track record of
skyrocketing prices, water quality problems, deteriorating service and
a loss of local control.

In most cases like those though, isn’t privatization really trading a government/public monopoly for a corporate monopoly? What is the track record of publically owned utilities compared to private utilities on prices, quality, and service? Are they inherently better or have different incentives? One article I did find, via google, comparing the two is from the Reason Foundation from 2003, Why Water Privatization Adds Up in response to another Public Citizen report.


In a rich irony, the researcher for Public Citizen who wrote that
report and their other early attacks on privatization quit soon after
and came out publicly to explain that his work had taught him that
privatization works when done right an that critics have failed to show
any problems with it beyond a few anecdotes.

neither is privatization a White Knight that can ride in and rid a city
council of all its water utility worries. It is not an easy, no brainer
solution to all our water ills.

I’d recommend you read the full report, but I’ll pull the main conclusion for you here:

The key is transparency and accountability, and the track record of
privatization shows that accountability exists except in rare cases.