Water Access and Poverty Alleviation: Assessing the Feasibility of Private Sector Participation in the Water Sector

Jessica Kate Friedman

Studenteropgave: Speciale


This report examines the growing involvement of the private sector in water services and the ability of private sector participation to improve access to water services for the poorest citizens, especially in light of the UN Millennium Development Goals. Private Sector Participation (PSP) has been problematic in the area of improving access to water for poor people due to the special nature of water, particularly the difficulty in reconciling the economic value of the water itself as well as the service and the social value of water services. Determining the appropriate role of the regulator after the privatisation agreement goes through has also been the source of many problems, as PSP is often implemented in areas with a weak regulatory environment. In addition, in 1992 the concept of Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM) was developed that created a new method of water management that called for a more holistic view of water resources and water services. IWRM calls for increased stakeholder participation in the water management process and a recognition of water's ecological and economic value. In order to discuss and analyse PSP in relation to IWRM, two desk studies are used: the first concerns the PSP initiative in Cochabamba Bolivia and the second concerns the implementation of IWRM in South Africa and the implementation of the policy of Free Basic Water. The first desk study weights the economic value of water more heavily than the social value while the second desk study focuses more on the social value, than on the economic value. Four focus areas are identified for the analysis of the desk studies that address balancing the social and economic nature of water and assessing the institutional arrangements for water management. They include: extending access to marginal areas, affordability, community participation and transparency and the role of the regulator. Finally, it is suggested that increased efforts are needed to address the capacity building needs of local regulatory authorities and to assist in the creation of avenues of communication for community influence on water management decisions. The combination of a weak regulatory environment, a well organised utility in an area with little to no stakeholder participation will not result in improved access for poor people. Instead, private utilities and water regulators should attempt to reconcile the economic, social and environmental values of water in the privatisation agreement in a way that reflects these values and improves access to water services to poor communities.

UddannelserTekSam - miljøplanlægning, (Bachelor/kandidatuddannelse) Kandidat
Udgivelsesdato1 jun. 2004
VejledereSøren Lund & Niels Schrøder


  • Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM)
  • Private Sector Participation (PSP)
  • Economic goods and Institutional Arrangements
  • South Africa
  • Social goods
  • Water Management
  • Bolivia