Published in Natural Resources & Environment, Winter 2010, at 3, and co-authored by Erin Derrington

Document Type



This article evaluates the impact of the growing presence of privatized water and wastewater infrastructure projects in some of the world’s most populous countries: China, India, the United States, Brazil, and Nigeria. Together, these nations account for nearly 50 percent of the world’s population. The article discusses environmental justice issues associated with contaminated drinking water and insufficient sanitation and explores the role that public versus private ownership of water infrastructure plays in ensuring access to clean water for the lower-income echelons of society. It articulates the importance of the rule of law and sound environmental governance in this arena and emphasizes the role of the legal community in addressing these challenges. Although water and wastewater infrastructure privatization is a legitimate response to the costs and challenges of water treatment and distribution, environmental decision makers have an ethical and moral duty to ensure that all people have access to reliable and affordable drinking water and sanitation. As such, these authors propose solutions for bringing justice factors meaningfully into the planning, construction, and operation of water and wastewater infrastructure projects.