Abstract: The transformation of water services that began with the privatisation of water companies in 1989 extended to households with the implementation of water metering. Meters 'privatised' water and the cost of provision by allocating to individual households costs that had previously been shared within the community. This (ongoing) conversion of common pool to private good has mostly improved economic, environmental and social impacts, but the potential burden of metering on poorer households has slowed the transition. Stronger anti-poverty programmes would be better at addressing this poverty barrier than existing coping mechanisms reliant on subsidies from other water consumers.
I began this paper about 5 years ago, as an EPI-Water case study (here's a very different, earlier edition [pdf]), and my thoughts on the topic have evolved over time. I see no problem with treating water as a private good and poverty as a collective good (in terms of responsibility).
This publication pushed me to create a page with my academic publications organized by water theme, for those of you who want to read more deeply on tariffs, trading water, performance insurance, groundwater taxes, and so on.