The Pros and Cons of water privatisation

Cathal Walsh
Environmental Journalist
Tuesday, 16th July 2019
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The pros and cons of water privatisation

The pros and cons of water privatisation:

News has recently come about that the Irish government is considering holding a referendum on water privatisation in 2020.  This means that the public will be able to vote as to whether Ireland’s municipal water service remains in the hands of the state or whether a private for-profit company will take charge of the provision of water to Ireland’s citizens. This referendum will mainly affect those living in Irelands cities and towns and will have no effect on individuals getting their water from private well schemes.

As a result of this we here at H2olabcheck have compiled a list of the pros and cons of water privatisation.

Pro water privatisation:

  • It can help improve the quality of the water supply:

If water services were to be taken over by a private company this would allegedly ensure that the overall quality of the water supply would improve. This is because the profitability would be in clean water and not dirty water. Another reason for this would be the fact that consumer laws on quality would then be applied to the private water supplier. This means that they would be liable to damages if they did not provide safe and clean water to people. Monetary sanctions are often the greatest deterrent of non-compliance.

  • Water will reach more people in an efficient manner

A private company would have much more of an incentive to upgrade the old and inefficient water systems as they would not want to lose money due to leakage or contamination. They would also most likely expand these systems to serve a wider base of people in order to expand their customer base.

  • It would take the burden off of the state

Water services are quite expensive and place a large burden on the state. Privatising water services would take quite a large monetary and manpower burden off of the state and allow them to focus on other services which seem to be underfunded at the moment such as healthcare.

Cons of water privatisation

  • Water is seen as a human right

A large issue with the state water charges a few years ago in Ireland was the public unwillingness to pay for the service. In the eyes of many, water is a basic human right which people should receive and not have to pay for.

  • It could deprive low income individuals of water

The privatisation of the water service would mean that nobody would get water for free. Individuals would have to pay a rate for their water whatever their means may be. As a result the privatisation of a water service could deprive individuals from low income areas of their water service.

  • It could limit the provision of services.

Water companies may cease the provision of water to sparsely populated areas where they may not have a lot of customers. This often happens in the privatisation of bus and train services where sparsely used routes of abolished. This would leave individuals from rural areas without access to a reliable source of water.

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