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Water Rights and Human Rights: The Poor Will Not Need our Charity if We Need their Water

20 Pages Posted: 8 Feb 2010 Last revised: 8 Oct 2012

David Zetland

Leiden University - Leiden University College

Date Written: August 11, 2011

Abstract

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.

Keywords: Human rights, property rights, institutions, political-economy, water markets, water quality, MDGs

JEL Classification: D02, D31, D63, L95, Q25, Q56

Suggested Citation

Zetland, David, Water Rights and Human Rights: The Poor Will Not Need our Charity if We Need their Water (August 11, 2011). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1549570 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1549570

David Zetland (Contact Author)

Leiden University - Leiden University College ( email )

P.O. Box 13228
Den Haag, 2501EE
Netherlands

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