Water Wars

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Water is a human right, not a commodity. It is the essence of life, sustaining every living being on the planet. Without it we would have no plants, no animals, no people. However, while water consumption doubles every twenty years our water sources are being depleted, polluted and exploited by multinational corporations. Water privatization has been promoted by corporations and international lending institutions as the solution to the global water crises but the only one’s who benefit from water privatization are investors and international banks. The essential dilemma of privatization is that the profit interests of private water utilities ultimately jeopardizes the safeguarding of the human right to water. Access to clean, sufficient and affordable water is a human right necessary for survival not a commodity for open markets.

When I first started researching this topic I wanted to write about the pros and cons of water privatization but the more I researched the more I realized that there are no pros to privatization. How can a price be placed on a life sustaining resource? Currently 31 countries suffer from water scarcity and one billion people lack access to clean drinking water. The United Nations estimates that by 2035 two-thirds of the worlds population will suffer from lack of access to clean and safe drinking water. #2

However, not everyone seems to believe this. Our governments and their corporate allies now see water as the new cash crop of the future. They are promoting privatization and open markets as the solution to providing water to the worlds developing nations. At the same time international finance institutions, have made privatization a condition for loans to developing countries. Undoubtedly, the same institutions that are given the task to alleviate the poor, such as IMF and the World Bank, are implementing policies that force people who live on a $1 a day to choose between food, shelter or water.

As citizens of the richest country in the world we take for granted the fact that every time we turn on the faucet, clean, safe, drinkable water is readily available to us.. And that in most U.S. cities a month supply still costs less than a monthly cable bill. Most of us don’t know where our water comes from, even less who owns it. I believe and I am sure most people would agree water is too precious a resource for anybody to own. But the rights to divert water from rivers and lakes are indeed becoming marketable commodities. And when demand exceeds supply, those are set to be some profitable commodities.

Not to long ago water privatization was exclusively a problem of the Third World. The World Bank required many of these countries to privatize their services as a condition of much needed loans. In 2000, out of 40 IMF loans distributed through the International Finance Corporation, 12 had requirements of partial to full privatization of water supplies. The hope was that multinational corporations would invest in the infrastructure to bring more water to more people in these countries and eradicate government corruption. But as evident in Cochabamba, Bolivia and in many places around the world all it created was higher water prices for consumers . In some places water prices were hiked up to 60%. Making it impossible for the impoverished to afford water.

These days the water giants have there sights set on a different target: countries with diminishing water supplies, aging infrastructure but better economies than countries like Bolivia. In the United States the EPA estimates that it would cost $300 billion dollars to repair our water infrastructure. However, the current White House administration has only allocated $6 billion dollars for the repairs. #2 So we can see where it seems lucrative for governments to delegate water management to the private sector. While it generates revenues for government budgets these governments are able to relinquish all their responsibilities of...
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