Water infrastructure and the making of financial subjects in the south east of England

Alex Loftus
Department of Geography, King’s College, London, UK; alex.loftus@kcl.ac.uk

Hug March
Internet Interdisciplinary Institute (IN3), Universitat Oberta de Catalunya, Castelldefels, Spain; hmarch@uoc.edu

Fiona Nash
affiliation fiona.j.nash@googlemail.com

ABSTRACT: Over the last four decades the locus of economic power has shifted from industry to finance. As part of this trend, the 'financialisation' of the water sector has added a new layer of complexity to the hydrosocial cycle, witnessed in the emergence of new financial actors, logics and financing instruments. Such a shift has profoundly reshaped the relationship between water utilities and consumers in the South East of England, where the household has become, in the words of Allen and Pryke (2013), a human revenue stream for financialised utilities. In this paper, we make an argument that the water meter is one of the crucial mediators through which finance will touch the lives of individual subjects. In the South East of England, after initial opposition to universal metering – in part shaped by fears over fluctuating revenues – water companies are now embedding a metering programme within a billing and tariff structure that aims to ensure governable and predictable subjects. Drawing on Urban Political Ecology, we argue that the financialisation of the water sector in England shapes the emergence of new financial subjectivities while enabling new forms of political rule that operate at a range of spatial scales.

KEYWORDS: Water meters, financialisation, hydrosocial cycle, households, South East England