IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

Water, Health, and the Commodification Debate


  • Patrick Bond

    () (University of KwaZulu-Natal School of Development Studies, Durban, South Africa)


Conflicts in the water sector are now well-known, and also increasingly researched by economists, particularly in relation to major ideological differences over state-run versus privatized municipal systems. A major dividing line is over how to access and sustain the financing required to expand and maintain municipal grids. In the context especially of third world urban processes, a crucial determinant is whether market-based pricing of water can generate health benefits to justify new capital investments. Such benefits have typically required strong public systems that offer adequate water supply (with sufficient proximity to source) at an affordable price. A variety of financial and fiscal pressures emerged since the 1980s, leaving full cost recovery as the core practice required by international aid agencies, multilateral financiers, and multinational corporations. Those firms were attracted by high potential profits which, ultimately, could not be realized (in part because of currency deterioration and profit repatriation problems), and hence systems were not maintained or expanded, and health benefits not realized. As commodification of water spread during the era of globalization, so too did an international civil society network demanding---and often winning--- decommodification of water and deglobalization of water-capital, returning service delivery to local public institutions, often on grounds of improved public health.

Suggested Citation

  • Patrick Bond, 2010. "Water, Health, and the Commodification Debate," Review of Radical Political Economics, Union for Radical Political Economics, vol. 42(4), pages 445-464, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:sae:reorpe:v:42:y:2010:i:4:p:445-464

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. repec:zbw:espost:157775 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. repec:zbw:espost:157771 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Shimshon Bichler & Jonathan Nitzan, 1996. "Military Spending and Differential Accumulation: A New Approach to the Political Economy of Armament — The Case of Israel," Review of Radical Political Economics, Union for Radical Political Economics, vol. 28(1), pages 51-95, March.
    4. repec:zbw:espost:157978 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. repec:zbw:esthes:157989 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. Nitzan, Jonathan, 1992. "Inflation As Restructuring. A Theoretical and Empirical Account of the U.S. Experience," EconStor Theses, ZBW - German National Library of Economics, number 157989, April.
    7. repec:zbw:espost:157773 is not listed on IDEAS
    8. Steedman, Ian, 1975. "Positive Profits with Negative Surplus Value," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 85(337), pages 114-123, March.
    9. Rowley, Robin & Bichler, Shimshon & Nitzan, Jonathan, 1988. "Some Aspects of Aggregate Concentration in the Israeli Economy, 1964-1986," MPRA Paper 5395, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    10. Harcourt,G. C., 1972. "Some Cambridge Controversies in the Theory of Capital," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521096720, March.
    11. Veblen, Thorstein, 1904. "Theory of Business Enterprise," History of Economic Thought Books, McMaster University Archive for the History of Economic Thought, number veblen1904.
    12. repec:zbw:espost:157777 is not listed on IDEAS
    13. repec:zbw:espost:157774 is not listed on IDEAS
    14. repec:zbw:espost:157776 is not listed on IDEAS
    15. repec:zbw:espost:157770 is not listed on IDEAS
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item


    commodification; conditionalities; water; health;

    JEL classification:

    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
    • H44 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods - - - Publicly Provided Goods: Mixed Markets
    • L95 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Transportation and Utilities - - - Gas Utilities; Pipelines; Water Utilities
    • Q25 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Renewable Resources and Conservation - - - Water


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:sae:reorpe:v:42:y:2010:i:4:p:445-464. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (SAGE Publications). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    We have no references for this item. You can help adding them by using this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.