Water Rights and Human Rights: The Poor Will not Need Our Charity if We Need Their Water (D. Zetland)


David Zetland


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


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 give people a property right to water. Because property rights — unlike humanrights — are alienable, some portion of an individual’s rights can be exchanged for access to clean water. Besides this basic equity outcome, property rights could enrich the poor, increase the efficient use of water, and improve water supply reliability in countries with poor governance.


SSRN Working Paper Series (18 June 2010)


Water Rights and HumanRights: The Poor Will not Need Our Charity if We Need Their Water