Monopolisation, market liberalisation and madness: Order and disorder in water supply governance

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterResearchpeer-review


This chapter considers governance issues in the context of a ubiquitous and necessary resource: water. In many countries, water was traditionally supplied to the public through monopolistic, often government-run, entities. Over the past quarter century, governments around the world have moved from government-owned and operated monopolistic water supply structures to corporatised or, in some cases, privatised regimes for the supply of water to households and businesses. Some jurisdictions have even introduced competition in water supply. The variety of ways that jurisdictions have tackled these issues, and the extent to which these reforms have themselves been subject to change, illustrate the increasing level of disorder that currently characterises the global water sector. What had been a staid, stable sector is now in a state of flux across jurisdictions. Such changes have raised questions as to the best ways to balance efficient management of water assets, particularly given the prevalence of natural monopoly characteristics in the industry; the desire for profitability; conservation and safety concerns; and the critical issue of affordability of this necessary good. Accordingly, this chapter first examines structural characteristics of the water supply industry. It next reviews how the Australian water supply regime has evolved over the past 20 years. It then examines how jurisdictions in the United Kingdom have approached the supply of water and considers the extent to which options tried there may offer lessons for Australia. The chapter concludes that models trialled in other countries may indeed offer useful solutions as the Australian water industry continues to evolve. At the same time, the chapter concludes that global disorder in this area, as a result of attempts to tailor solutions to local conditions, might be a positive outcome.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationGlobal governance and regulation
Subtitle of host publicationOrder and disorder in the 21st century
EditorsDanielle Ireland-Piper, Leon Wolff
Place of PublicationOxon
Number of pages27
ISBN (Electronic)9781351734011
ISBN (Print)9781472489012
Publication statusPublished - 2018


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