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The bio-financialization of Irish Water: New advances in the neoliberalization of vital services


  • Bresnihan, Patrick


This paper examines ongoing efforts to establish a new semi-state, commercial water utility in Ireland. The new utility, Irish Water, marks a significant break with the previous public service model of water and wastewater provision both in terms of how it is financed and how it is governed. The Irish government asserts that these reforms are a necessary response to the twin challenges of an aging water infrastructure and the fiscal challenges of the Irish state. In this paper I outline how the convergence of these environmental and financial demands are provoking new advances in the neoliberalization of water services. I argue that the organizational and technical composition of Irish Water suggests the extension of both financial logics and highly technical environmental metrics into the water sector, what I call the process of bio-financialization.

Suggested Citation

  • Bresnihan, Patrick, 2016. "The bio-financialization of Irish Water: New advances in the neoliberalization of vital services," Utilities Policy, Elsevier, vol. 40(C), pages 115-124.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:juipol:v:40:y:2016:i:c:p:115-124
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jup.2015.11.006

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Schwartz, Klaas, 2008. "The New Public Management: The future for reforms in the African water supply and sanitation sector," Utilities Policy, Elsevier, vol. 16(1), pages 49-58, March.
    2. John Allen & Michael Pryke, 2013. "Financialising household water: Thames Water, MEIF, and ‘ring-fenced’ politics," Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society, Cambridge Political Economy Society, vol. 6(3), pages 419-439.
    3. Petersen, Thomas & Klauer, Bernd & Manstetten, Reiner, 2009. "The environment as a challenge for governmental responsibility -- The case of the European Water Framework Directive," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 68(7), pages 2058-2065, May.
    4. Georg Inderst, 2009. "Pension Fund Investment in Infrastructure," OECD Working Papers on Insurance and Private Pensions 32, OECD Publishing.
    5. Susan Christopherson & Ron Martin & Jane Pollard, 2013. "Financialisation: roots and repercussions," Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society, Cambridge Political Economy Society, vol. 6(3), pages 351-357.
    6. E Swyngedouw, 1997. "Power, nature, and the city. The conquest of water and the political ecology of urbanization in Guayaquil, Ecuador: 1880 - 1990," Environment and Planning A, Pion Ltd, London, vol. 29(2), pages 311-332, February.
    7. Raffaele Della Croce & Juan Yermo, 2013. "Institutional Investors and Infrastructure Financing," OECD Working Papers on Finance, Insurance and Private Pensions 36, OECD Publishing.
    8. Dieter Helm & Tom Tindall, 2009. "The evolution of infrastructure and utility ownership and its implications," Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Oxford University Press, vol. 25(3), pages 411-434, Autumn.
    9. Erik Swyngedouw, 2006. "Power, Water and Money: Exploring the Nexus," Human Development Occasional Papers (1992-2007) HDOCPA-2006-14, Human Development Report Office (HDRO), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
    10. Maria Kaika, 2003. "The Water Framework Directive: A New Directive for a Changing Social, Political and Economic European Framework," European Planning Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 11(3), pages 299-316.
    11. Hug March & David Saurí, 2013. "The unintended consequences of ecological modernization: debt-induced reconfiguration of the water cycle in Barcelona," Environment and Planning A, Pion Ltd, London, vol. 45(9), pages 2064-2083, September.
    12. Morag I. Torrance, 2008. "Forging Glocal Governance? Urban Infrastructures as Networked Financial Products," International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 32(1), pages 1-21, March.
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    Bio-financialization; Water; Neoliberalism;


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