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The ambiguity of community: Debating alternatives to private-sector provision of urban water supply

Karen Bakker
Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada;

ABSTRACT: The concept of community has become increasingly important in debates over alternatives to privatization, and is invoked by both proponents and opponents of private sector provision of water supply. This paper presents a critique of the concept of community water supply when it is invoked as an alternative to privatization. The analysis presents a typology of proposals for community ownership and governance of water supply, and proceeds to critique some of the flawed assumptions in the concepts of community deployed in these proposals, together with references to more general debates about the viability of the 'commons' as enacted through community-controlled water supply systems. The paper closes with a brief discussion of the future evolution of the debate over 'community' alternatives to privatization, focusing on water supply.