Water Rights and Human Rights: The Poor Will Not Need our Charity if We Need their Water
Leiden University - Leiden University College
August 11, 2011
Each year, about 2.8 million people die due to problems with poor water supply, sanitation and hygiene. Over three-quarters of the dead are children. Some argue that a human right to clean water would improve this situation. This paper shows that human rights are not sufficient to improve access to clean water and argues that it would be more productive to distribute property rights in national waters to citizens. Because property rights --- unlike human rights --- are alienable, citizens (rich and poor) could turn some of their rights into cash that they could use to pay for clean water service. Besides this basic equity outcome, property rights would establish a price of water in proportion to its value and facilitate efficient water allocation.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 20
Keywords: Human rights, property rights, institutions, political-economy, water markets, water quality, MDGs
JEL Classification: D02, D31, D63, L95, Q25, Q56
Date posted: February 8, 2010 ; Last revised: October 8, 2012