La Houille Blanche
Number 1, Février 2003
|Page(s)||44 - 49|
|Published online||01 July 2009|
L'Eau bien social et économique
Water a social and economic good
Directeur Général de Suez
Much has been said around the controversial question of whether water should be considered as a social good or as a commodity. Breaking away from this fruitless debate, the answer this article is ientended to illustrate, in three steps, is "Water is a social AND economic good". No one would contest the social nature of water, as the element most essential to life. At SUEZ we believe in the universal right to water. But also believe that to become a reality, this universal right must come with the Public Authority's duty to ensure and guarantee access to water to all the people it serves. Freshwater resources are, and should be, a local public good. Freshwater is not a commodity. But the service of making it available to the population does have an economic value. This value includes much more than the cost of building, maintaining, and operating the water distribution system: it also includes the level and of service, the public health, environmenral, and employment benefits, and its role in poverty alleviation. Despite the social role of water, the Poor often do not benefit from collective water infrastructure, and therefore pay more for water than the Better off. Our 15-year practical experience as a water operator in developing countries shows it is possible to reconcile the social nature and the economic aspects of water. I propose here some answers to the following questions: who should pay for water? How the cost should be distributed fairly among users? Accepting the economic value of water allows for its better and more sustainable management, and helps ensuring its social role. This is a key to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.
© Société Hydrotechnique de France, 2003
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