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Financialization, water governance, and uneven development

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Mainstream global actors in the water sector argue that the key to long‐term water security is to accelerate the development of water infrastructure for which new financial sources are sorely needed. The return of large infrastructural solutions to water management is attracting nontraditional water investors such as private equity and institutional investors seeking to diversify their portfolio assets. Recent research into how such an investment is a hedging option for corporate water industry actors or an investment vehicle for institutional investors raises questions about ownership, control, distribution, and affordability of water as well as the long‐run consequences for operation and maintenance of infrastructure. We identify a number of key questions that the water sector needs to resolve before contemplating the alluring easy money that new financial sources appear to offer. The nature and scale of financialization make it a deeply undemocratic process with potentially highly uneven impacts on social‐ecological landscapes. WIREs Water 2016, 3:766–774. doi: 10.1002/wat2.1166 This article is categorized under: Engineering Water > Planning Water Human Water > Rights to Water Human Water > Water Governance

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