Drinking in Private


"It is a little known fact that the United States today uses far less water per person, and less water in total, than we did twenty-five years ago."

After Tyler Cowen piqued my interest with the above quote, I dug into my New Yorker backlog to read an article about the world's water supply from last week's issue ("The Last Drop," October 23). The quote is from water expert Peter Gleick.

You can't get the article online, but you can read an interview with its author, Michael Specter. Asked about the morality of private control of water distribution, Specter had this to say:

I am not one of those who believe that there is any moral issue here. Privatization is neither good nor bad; it's a question of who profits and what people pay. If a private company could take over the water system of Delhi (or any other city), fix the pipes, and deliver water at an affordable price, why is that worse than letting a government control the water when it has proved incapable of doing the job properly?

The New Yorker has been on this beat for awhile, with a relatively fretful piece from 2002 here. Ron Bailey takes up the theme here.