In a new research paper Patsiaouras argues that increased competition for water from both the public and from industry will engender a privatised, market-based water system. He predicts that nations will begin to sell key water sources – such as lakes, rivers and groundwater reserves – to companies. This will mean the supply of water around the world will soon resemble the market for oil and minerals.
Dr Patsiaouras said: “Increased competition between nations and institutions for access to clean water will create a global marketplace for buying, selling and trading water resources.” He added: “There will be an increase in phenomena such as water transfer, water banking and mega-engineering desalination plants emerging as alternative and competing means of managing water supply.”
This new water economy will only work in the favour of countries and communities that can afford to bid the highest amounts for water – while poorer and drought-stricken countries might see water supplies becoming even more scarce. To avoid this, control over water should be localised, with communities taking control over lakes and other water sources in their area, giving priority to public health over profit. Dr Patsiaouras says the potential for community-based and cooperative alternatives for handling water supply needs to be closely examined. He said: “Community-based water management offers an alternative solution to market-based and state-based failures.