27 Jul 2011

Bleg -- raw water pricing and the poor

TF asks:
I had a quick question surrounding the issue of water pricing mechanisms. Hammering out some ideas with respect to the Philippines initiative to implement a raw water pricing scheme. I've read some critiques and concerns about this with respect to the affordability of water for the poor.

I'm wondering if you could explain how a cost-recovery, raw water pricing system could be implemented to foster better water practices but at the same time, be equitable and accessible to poorer populations (especially in the developing world context such as the Philippines - where there are hoards of illegal connections especially among the urban poor on the fringes).

Also, I'm wondering how the idea of how a pricing scheme would fit into a human rights framework (water as a human right connected to food as a human right, etc.).
  1. I describe how "some for free, pay for more" pricing would work in chapter one of my book, which is in the free sample chapter.
  2. That said, the best way to serve the poor is transfer income to them; let the utility charge prices to cover costs (they do this in Chile).
  3. I am not a fan of the human rights in water argument because it's used as a justification for making ALL water free -- which is economically and environmentally unsustainable (see Chapter 11 in my book or this paper).
  4. Miya water is trying to improve water reliability in Manila by reducing leaks, theft and non-payment.
Does anyone else have thoughts on these issues?

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