Water Privatization in Cochabamba, Bolivia [MTC]:
The Water War
How would you feel if water, an international human right, became a private good controlled by a foreign third-party organization?
*Note: This version of the 'Water privatization in Cochabamba, Bolivia' case has been modified for use in the Sustainability and Development Master Track program. The original can be found at https://www.learngala.com/cases/water-war.
Water privatization has been an important debate for much of the last century, and there have been many case examples that have had different outcomes. The Bolivian water wars represent one such example that embodies the many dilemmas that come with the question of whether water should be a privatized resource. Cochabamba is a Bolivian city that was selected as a site for a water privatization project due to the local municipality, SEMAPA’s, failure at adequately providing clean, reliable, widely accessible water to its community members. A third-party organization, Aguas del Tunari, in partnership with Bechtel (an American company), was chosen by the Bolivian government to replace the local water company in managing the water system for Cochabamba and improving the efficiency so that residents would have an inexpensive, streamlined water source. However, this deal received backlash from the community members of Cochabamba due to its failure to provide for the community in the way that it was promised. This case is a classic example of the benefits and drawbacks of water privatization, and the ultimate dilemma of whether water should be a privatized commodity good or remain as a natural resource that excludes the economic factor that many stakeholders are so dependent on.