Introduction Water is a basic human need. At the same time under a number of international treatise and conventions water is considered as a fundamental human right. The recognition of water as a basic need and as a human right places it in similiar status from a public policy standpoint as other social services such as health and education (Nigam 1999). The implication of these two statements for financing of safe water, in particular, the obligation of governments on the one side to protect, fullfill and implement a fundamental Human Right and the need of cost-recovery on the other side are often seen as conflicting issues.
Quite often the question raised is whether the poor should be made to pay for their water needs and if or if not water supply systems should be subsidized by governments. A number of empirical studies however show that the question put in this way is not the right one: in general the poor are paying for their water needs, and what is even more striking: they often pay considerably more than the rich do.
So it would be more suitable to ask, what are the mechanism that poor people often spent a bigger part of their expenditure on water and how systems can be formulated that are cost-recovery on the one side, ensure basic human needs and protects fundamental human rights at the same time.
The objective of the paper has these aspects in mind, but it will concentrate on another issue at the same time: as water in many parts of the world becomes scarce, it is already today the source of various conflicts and it is very likely that these conflicts will intensify in the future. From the perspective of a "Political Ecology" the paper deals with different actors in society...