15 Aug 2008

Flow, the Movie

I've blogged on this film before ("propaganda"), and now we have a trailer:

and some PR:
Interviews with scientists and activists [Peter Gleick!] intelligently reveal the rapidly building crisis, at both the global and human scale, and the film introduces many of the governmental and corporate culprits behind the water grab, while begging the question "CAN ANYONE REALLY OWN WATER?"
Although I agree that bottled water is a scam, and privatization has gone wrong some places,* I am also sure that there's a little too much anti-market hysteria in this film.


Here's the best quote from the trailer:
People say that water is a lot like air. You shouldn't charge for water. Well, ok. Watch what happens.
...you run out of water!

Bottom Line: Enjoy the film but don't lose your head! Neither public nor private provision of water is better -- monopoly is the problem. Water MUST have a price (on the margin, at least) if we are not going to run out of it.

* I met an insider to the water privatization in Buenos Aires and learned that service had improved dramatically (child mortality down**) even while the company used "creative discretion" to maximize profits (bad!). The trouble was that the peso devaluation lead to a freezing of tariffs (and drop in revenue). The company left the country, and the anti-privitization people claimed that the experiment was a failure. They were wrong.

** Galiani, S.; Gertler, P. & Schargrodsky, E. "Water for Life: The Impact of the Privatization of Water Services on Child Mortality" Journal of Political Economy, 2005, 113, 83-120. Abstract: In the 1990s Argentina embarked on one of the largest privatization campaigns in the world, including the privatization of local water companies covering approximately 30 percent of the country's municipalities. Using the variation in ownership of water provision across time and space generated by the privatization process, we find that child mortality fell 8 percent in the areas that privatized their water services and that the effect was largest (26 percent) in the poorest areas. We check the robustness of these estimates using cause-specific mortality. While privatization is associated with significant reductions in deaths from infectious and parasitic diseases, it is uncorrelated with deaths from causes unrelated to water conditions.