Water as a political good: implications for investments

  • Marco Schouten
  • Klaas Schwartz
Original Paper


There is an urgent need for investments in the water sector. Still about a billion people lack access to drinking water services, and the double amount lacks proper sanitation services. To reach the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) substantial additional funding needs to be accessed. In view of the low priority given to the water sector by all prospective investors, the perspective of failure to reach the MDGs is eminent. The main argument made in this paper is that a formidable obstacle in accessing and using funds in the water sector is the omission to include explicitly the political nature of water in investment decisions. Due to its multifaceted and internally conflicting character, politics are a fact of life in the water sector. The menu of (suitable) investment options for a given locality is very much dependent on the political environment in which these water services are to be provided. While the impact of the political realm on water services is often acknowledged (most frequently in negative terms as it is seen as one of the main causes of poor performance of public utilities), few professionals really take the political environment explicitly into account when taking decisions relating to the provision of water services. In this paper it is propagated that the political dimension of water should be made explicit in an attempt to increase access and sustainability of investments in the water sector. Sound and sustainable investment in water services can only be achieved by taking into account the existing political environment in which those water services are to be delivered.


Water supply and sanitation Investment Politics 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Management and InstitutionsUNESCO-IHE Institute for Water EducationDelftThe Netherlands

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