It’s a question recently posed by Daniel Van Abs, water policy professor at Rutgers University, and one that should be answered soon, in his opinion. Van Abs wrote an editorial about the issue, which was recently published in the NJ Spotlight, drawing from his research and his experience with water policy in New Jersey state government.
Van Abs asks, “Is water, as the U.N. states, a fundamental human right? Or is it a commodity that must be purchased at the going rate? Or is it a public service, in which the focus is on satisfying a social goal for provision of general needs?”
Costs for goods and services continue to rise with the times, and water is no different. Increased demand, regulations on freshwater sources, and improved drinking water treatment has driven the price of water upward. The problem lies with how people with limited funds will pay for water for domestic use when the cost exceeds their budget.
This problem has plagued New Jersey, Michigan, and Maryland this past year with water companies shutting off water to hundreds of homes of those who failed to pay their water bills. If water is viewed as a right, as Van Abs thinks it should, this action violates the basic human right to water access.
If we were to view access to water as a right, more programs to support funding for water use would need to be instituted to help those in need. It would not be an easy project to tackle.
Read more about Daniel Van Abs’ insight in his full editorial here.