The gender implications of putting a price on water

Water Economics, Policy and Governance Network (WEPGN)

The gender implications of putting a price on water

Project Description:

Water privatization is a growing trend in Canada, with governments increasingly turning to outsourcing and contracting of various water services as experiments in ‘new governance’. At the same time, interest in water conservation measures is increasing, with many economists believing that a ‘price signal’ will be critical in this regard. The debate around putting a price on water is ideologically charged and politically volatile. Opponents often point to concerns around unequal access, reduced services, increased maintenance deficiencies, and deteriorating water quality or infrastructure having detrimental impacts on communities.

Few of these political or economic debates include gendered analyses of the implications of water management models, or an investigation of how women might be differentially affected. And yet, it is likely that higher water prices will mean unequal access to water, along the familiar social gradients of race, class, and gender. It is well documented now that women are more likely to be poor and to lead poor households, and often carry out water-related work in and outside of the household, and so it may be women who bear the brunt of water price hikes, limited access to water supplies, water cut-offs, deteriorating water quality, or shifts to metering and source alternatives such as bottled water. Research further suggests that exposure to, and absorption of certain chemicals in unregulated water supplies – and the potential for negative health effects – may be influenced by sex and gender in a number of important ways.


Danya Scott, & Leila Harris


National Network on Environments and Women’s Health; Canadian Women’s Health Network; Ontario Native Women’s Association

Graduate Students:

Jyoti Phartiyal, & Megan Peloso