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Water For Sale: How Business and the Market Can Resolve the World’s Water Crisis

By Fredrik Segerfeldt
About the Book

More than a billion people worldwide lack access to clean, safe water. Some 12 million people die annually as a result, and millions more are struck by diseases associated with the lack of sanitary water. Those afflicted live mainly in poor countries where water distribution is run by inefficient public providers—97 percent of all water distribution in poor countries is public.

In recent years, a small number of developing country governments have turned to the private sector for help. Swedish activist and author Fredrik Segerfeldt shows how millions of new households in places as diverse as Argentina, the Philippines, Cambodia, and Morocco, have been connected to water networks as a result of private investment.

But “privatization” of water distribution has met with stiff resistance. A coalition of NGOs and special interests argues that water is a human right and that the private sector would hike rates beyond the ability of the poor to pay. Segerfeldt reviews cases of privatization and shows that most claims of the anti‐​privatization lobby are unfounded.

The very poor who are not connected to any water network have the most to gain from privatization since the rates they pay — 12 times more on average than the price of network water — fall dramatically when private companies connect them to the network. Using statistical data Segerfeldt warns against the tragic consequences of paying heed to those who are driven by an anti‐​business ideological agenda rather than a desire to try policies that actually help the poor.

About the Editor

Fredrik Segerfeldt is a communication strategist and senior adviser at the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise. Previously, he has worked as an adviser for Central and Eastern Europe at the Union des Industries de la Communauté Européenee (UNICE), a Brussels‐​based European business organization, and as an adviser for international affairs at the Swedish Employers’ Confederation. Segerfeldt has been published widely in the Swedish news media and the international media, including the Financial Times, the Wall Street Journal Europe, European Voice, Le Monde, and Tech​Cen​tral​Sta​tion​.com.

What Others Have Said

“Water has become a commodity whose quantity and quality are much too important to leave to the whims of public authorities. Water supply systems are in need of regulation through private ownership rights and markets for the transfer of these rights. Read this book and find out why.”
—Vernon L. Smith, Nobel Laureate in Economics

“When it comes to water policy books, relevance and sense are rare commodities. So it’s a pleasant surprise that Fredrik Segerfeldt has provided both in this most useful addition to the literature. Water privatization has proved difficult nearly everywhere it’s been tried, but, as this book neatly explains, the alternative has usually been worse. Water for Sale should be widely read, especially by engineers, hydrologists, and government officials who know little, and usually care even less, about markets.”
—Roger Bate, Africa Fighting Malaria

“Fredrik Segerfeldt’s book Water for Sale is an excellent argument for private management of humankind’s most valuable natural resource. Its thesis is both provocative and suggestive—water is scarce in developing countries because of poor management, not because it is in short supply. Water policy affects the future of millions of people across the globe. Segerfeldt offers an efficient, sure, and safe alternative for this future. With this hope, I sincerely recommend this book.”
—Beatriz Merino, Former Prime Minister of Peru

“The critics of privatization insist that water is too important to be left to the mercies of private enterprise. In this fascinating study, Fredrik Segerfeldt demonstrates that the opposite is true: water is too important not to be subject to market forces. The debate should, he shows, not be over whether to take the supply and distribution of water away from incompetent government agencies and introduce prices, property rights, and private enterprise instead, but over how best to do so.”
—Martin Wolf, Associate Editor, Financial Times

Water for Sale is chock full of evidence of the success of free‐​market water projects and the failures of water socialism. The book is remarkably effective in demonstrating that supposedly cold‐​hearted capitalism does wonders for poor people when it’s allowed to function, and also that the supposedly compassionate advocates of statism are committed to policies that help keep the poor mired in poverty and misery. So let’s hoist a glass of water—or any other beverage you choose—to Fredrik Segerfeldt for this enlightening book.
—George Leef, The Freeman.