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Privatization of Water Utilities

Privatization of Water Utilities

Ethics of the Decision Makers Involved in the Privatization of Water Utilities, What Motivated Them, and How Their Decisions Affect Others

The privatization of natural resources such as water is among the issues that have been embraced with mixed reactions because of ethical concerns. In the current scenario involving the privatization of water, the decision-makers are ethical because the aim of privatizing the water resources in Flint, Michigan, is to meet the water demands in the region and maintain water physical systems and water quality, thus benefiting the majority. The increased demand for freshwater was the main factor that motivated the decision-makers. The increase in demand motivated the decision-makers to look for ways to meet the demands, thus considering the privatization of water utilities. The second factor that motivated the decision-makers was the need for quality water and proper management of the physical water system. Although the decision to privatize water utilities may be the only best solution to the water crisis in Flint, it is important to consider how the decision affected others.

One of the main impacts on the community was access to quality water. According to Barry-Jester (2016), the residents of Flint did not have access to quality water because most of the water was polluted by industrial chemicals, road salt, and sewage. Therefore, the privatization of water utilities would help the residents access quality water because the private companies would be willing to invest in water purification to set high prices for quality water and maximize profit. The second impact was easy access to fresh water. According to Pavelich (2017), the privatization of water utilities can help reduce water scarcity and increase water conservation because private companies ensure everyone has access to quality water at a specified price to meet demand and supply requirements. The third impact is an increase in the cost of water. Private companies that control water utilities aim to make a profit thus setting high prices for fresh water. Therefore, the communities in Flint were forced to spend more on freshwater than they were used to when the water utilities were under government control. Another impact of the privatization of water utilities to the community was improved water infrastructure. According to Vandermyde (2015), private companies can repair existing water distribution systems because they have the financial ability to make the repairs. Therefore, the community in Flint could benefit from a better water distribution system because it increases water accessibility and availability.

Disagreement With The Decisions That Were Made

I disagree with the decision to privatize water resources because it may limit water availability and accessibility, especially for low-income families. According to Pavelich (2017), in most cases, poor people are excluded from accessing water sources, especially because of high prices. Therefore, natural resources such as water should be controlled by public entities that are not after profit so that they can set reasonable prices that everyone, including low-income individuals, can afford. Privatization of water utilities was also a poor decision because private companies may look for ways to cut costs and maximize profits at the expense of the water consumers. For example, according to Interlandi (2010), two water plants operated by Veolia spilled a lot of sewage into San Francisco Bay, forcing one city in the region to make expensive upgrades to the sewage plant because the Veolia plant wanted to reduce operating costs by shifting the cost of environmental violation to the city. Therefore, there is a high risk of exploitation of the community and public resources as private companies cut operating costs and a high risk of poor water quality.

Ethical Perspectives that Can be Applied to the Privatization of Water Resources

According to Deutschmann et al. (2021), public goods privatization raises ethical concerns about conflicts of interest. One of the ethical perspectives that can be applied to the privatization of water resources is procedural justice. According to Igliozzi & Granot (2022), procedural justice encourages participatory governance and empowers communities, individuals, and societies to decide how their needs are met. The privatization of water resources limits individuals’ and communities’ ability to decide how their water needs are met because private entities do not involve the community in decision-making. For example, private companies may increase the price of water without consulting the consumers. Privatization of water resources can also be interpreted by applying the distributional justice perspective. Distributional justice focuses on the fair and socially just allocation of resources between and within different generations (Igoumenidis & Papastavrou, 2023). Privatization of water resources limits distributional justice because it creates the risk of reduced water availability and accessibility for low-income individuals who cannot afford to pay the high prices. Privatization of water utilities also limits distributional justice; according to Interlandi (2010), private water companies are often less interested in conservation and encourage people to use water to maintain high demand and create revenue. Therefore, they may emphasize providing quality water to areas with a high demand for water, leading to unfair allocation of water resources.


Barry-jester, A. (2016, January 26). What went wrong in Flint? FiveThirtyEight.

Deutschmann, J. W., Gars, J., Houde, J.-F., Lipscomb, M., & Schechter, L. (2021). Privatization of public goods: Evidence from the sanitation sector in Senegal. SSRN Electronic Journal.

Igliozzi, D., & Granot, Y. (2022). Procedural justice. Procedural Justice.

Igoumenidis, M., & Papastavrou, E. (2023). Equality, equity, and distributional justice in nursing. Routledge Handbook of Philosophy and Nursing, 261–271.

Interlandi, J. (2010, October 8). The race to buy up the world’s water. Newsweek.

Pavelich, K. (2017). Water Privatization: A Threat to Human Rights? Global Societies Journal, 5.,” %20(Hale%2C%202006).

Vandermyde, R. (2015). My Water, My Rights: Ethics and Implications of Water Privatization. Ethics Essay Contest.


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Around the world, some cities and countries are selling their water utilities to private companies. Private companies are not run by government agencies.

Privatization of Water Utilities

Privatization of Water Utilities

These private companies are trying to turn a profit. At the same time, they are supposed to meet the region’s water demands and maintain water quality and physical systems. What is the impact of privatization on affected communities?

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