Water Privatization?

With water privatization, Japan faces crossroads in battling its aging pipes
Japan Times -- Dec 18 2018

Japanese water is clean and readily available, as evidenced by drinkable tap water and a nearly 100 percent penetration rate.
But perhaps less known is the dire decay that has slowly chipped away at its infrastructure, casting doubt on its sustainability.
To address this, the Diet passed an amendment earlier this month to the Water Supply Act, paving the way for effective privatization.
But critics say this flies in the face of a global trend toward “re-municipalizing” — or reinstating public control over — water management after years of soaring bills and compromised service quality, which they say underscore the profit maximization ethos of the private sector.
So what’s the status quo of Japan’s water system and what does the revised law do? Here is our look into those questions:
What’s the situation that prompted changes to the law?
Water pipes nationwide, many of them holdovers from the early postwar era that marked Japan’s rise as an economic superpower, are rapidly aging.
Adding to the disrepair is a staff shortage and reduced water use stemming from Japan’s ever-shrinking population that have made it increasingly difficult for municipalities, especially smaller ones, to run their water businesses in a sustainable manner.
Government data show that about 30 percent of water suppliers nationwide have seen their business slip into the red — a situation predicted to only worsen amid a further decline in manpower.
Health ministry statistics meanwhile show that about 15 percent of water pipes across the nation had outlived their 40-year duration as of fiscal 2016 and are thus in need of upgrading. But at the current pace, it is estimated it will take Japan about 130 years to bring all pipes up to date. Only 37.2 percent of major pipes are sufficiently quake-resistant, pointing to the danger of a prolonged water outage in the event of natural disasters, according to the health ministry.

The Kurashi opinion is of course that water is Japan's single major important resource. You can drink it, grow rice and vegetables and soy bean and other protein crops, and anyone with a well can live comfortably. If you start selling that to corporations and overseas investors, well, Japan has no other valuable resource. No iron, gold or oil. But water, is that much more valuable, since we all depend on it.

Comments

Again Wilder said…
Kurashi,

Mostly just writing to say hello, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you and yours.

Regarding water "management" and the "sale of" here, I'm on the fence at the moment.

I think re-municipalizing water management makes sense in places with a growing tax-base, because it's financially beneficial to both the people and those who govern. In Japan, though, you can bet your buttons that the private sector has crunched the numbers and want in on 1. the burgeoning water pipe re-installation mega-project and 2. the ability to tap, bottle and export the water. Chinese investors have been buying upland Japan for years (apparently for the water), and I wonder what their influence might be in all this. Once upon a time the Chinese took all the gold here.

In terms of structure/consolidation, it happened (Public -> Private) with the Highways, Agriculture, Japan Post, and a host of others. So I think it only makes sense that it would happen here with water, too. Unfortunately it's but a commodity after all.

To the New Year !

Cheers,

ken

Again Wilder.com
Martin J Frid said…
Thanks for the thoughtful comment, AW. Best luck for 2019 and your many interesting projects in Nagano. At some point, you'll have to join us at the Nippori Marche and see what you can sell to all those food-self-insufficient Tokyo folks.
Again Wilder said…
Martin,

A BIG O-tsukare with Nippori Marche. Never been, but I'm well read on it through a couple blogs. Looks and sounds awesome.

Cheers,

ken

www.AgainWilder.com
Martin J Frid said…
Boom! Indeed. Thanks for the inspiration & Be Wilder.

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