Distributive Justice and the Commodification of Water - Adrian Walsh (UNE)

Speaker: Adrian Walsh

Abstract: "What should we think about commodifying the natural resource of water from the point of view of distributive justice? In many parts of the world today, processes of commodification of water resources are well under way – so much so that, in some areas, water can only really be accessed as a commodity. The commodification of water involves the buying and selling of water resources for domestic, agricultural and industrial purposes as well as the buying and selling of the commercial organisations that trade in these resources. Such commodification is increasingly common. This comes at the same time as there is increasing competition for water resources  and when many people face restricted access due to water scarcity. Climate change has only exacerbated the pressures on existing water suppliers. How should we regard any moves towards further commodification? What grounds might there be for blocking exchanges in water? 

In this paper I shall concentrate primarily on water as a public resource and, in particular, the implications commodification has for access to commodified goods and for the justice or otherwise of the patterns of distribution that ensue. This will be the primary focus. After defining commodification and its distributive implications, I shall outline what I take to be a number of normatively salient features of water as a distributive good. After that I shall consider a number of moral objections one might have to the commodification of water understood as a public good: these objections primarily concern issues of distributive justice. Ultimately, I shall argue that the most important distributive reason for concern involves the implications for access to water for the satisfaction of basic human needs."

Please note that these seminars are open to the public and in person only.

Date & time

Thu 17 Nov 2022, 2:00pm to 3:30pm


Auditorium, Level 1, RSSS building, 146 Ellery Crescent, Acton, ACT 2601


Adrian Walsh (UNE)


Sarita Rosenstock


Updated:  8 November 2022/Responsible Officer:  Head of School/Page Contact:  CASS Marketing & Communications