Thursday, January 24, 2013


Paul Donahue
Water promises to be to the 21st century what oil was to the 20th century:
  the precious commodity that determines the wealth of nations. Fortune magazine, May 2000
Imagine for a moment what life will be like in the corporate-controlled world of the future. A handful of huge, powerful corporations will be responsible for all the societal services now handled by local, state and national governments - schools, police, prisons, military, mail, elections, social security, and so on. Even more importantly, corporations will control those things essential to human survival, namely food and water. If they can figure out a way to commodify the air we breathe, they surely will attempt to exert their control over the planet’s oxygen, as well. Services once provided by government agencies, accountable to voters, will be provided by corporations, accountable only to stockholders. With our governments in the sway of the corporations, our minimal democracy having eroded even further, and ultimate authority ceded to corporate- run international trade organizations, we will have lost the power to control the things

 most important to our survival.
Is this some remote and unlikely futuristic scenario? I wish it was, but a corporate-owned and controlled planet is closer than you might think - much closer - and unless we wake up soon and start taking back the reins, it will become a reality. One of the most important struggles being waged around the world against corporate control is over who owns our water. Water is essential to all life on the planet, from microbes to humans. If ever there was a natural resource that should remain part of the commons, this is it..
On a world scale, freshwater is scarce and becoming scarcer, with demand growing greater each year as the human population of our planet continues to swell. The rate of global water consumption is currently doubling every 20 years. With more than one billion human inhabitants of the Earth already lacking access to safe drinking water, and that number growing daily, the scenario for the future is already very frightening. The World Health Organization predicts that 48 nations will face severe water shortages by 2025, and the World Bank has predicted that by the year 2025, two-thirds of the world’s population will

run short of fresh drinking water.
As fresh drinking water becomes more and more scarce, the world can expect violent conflicts over water to become more commonplace, destabilizing entire regions of the world. Hotspots where water reserves are dwindling include the Middle East, northern China, Mexico, California and almost two dozen countries in Africa. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a ready example of a water war already in progress, but the situation in the Middle East and around the globe will undoubtedly grow worse in the years ahead. If you think the current oil wars are bad, wait until the
 water wars really kick in.
Making a bad situation even worse, much worse, we have entered the brave new world of water privatization, where huge, predatory, multinational corporations are gradually gaining control over our once publicly-owned water supplies. With growing scarcity, the market value of water will undoubtedly rise. It is with good reason that Fortune magazine has dubbed water the oil of the 21st century. According to Fortune, the annual profits of the water industry now amount to about 40 percent of those of the oil sector,
 and are close to $1 trillion.
International “free” trade agreements have given a tremendous boost to water privatization. The World Trade Organization (WTO) and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), established by and for large multinational corporations, promote deregulation and privatization of goods and services, including water. As a result of these trade agreements, it is now difficult for a nation to control exports of its water beyond its borders, or to prevent foreign corporations from establishing water operations inside the country. As an example, under NAFTA’s rules, Canada may be forced to allow the bulk export of water to the United States. Already, a California company is suing the Canadian government for $10.5 billion because the province of British Columbia banned the commercial export of bulk water.
The international water cartel also receives a tremendous amount of help from international lending institutions, such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Working hand-in-hand with the water giants, these lending institutions are both actively pushing water privatization, forcing developing countries to abandon their public water systems and contract with the corporations to provide water to their citizens. The World Bank has recently changed its policy from pressuring countries to privatize their water systems, to making water sector loans contingent on privatization. With the water systems in many developing countries in desperate need of repair, the countries have little choice but to accept the terms dictated.
The challenge ahead of us is formidable. The corporations involved in water privatization are extremely powerful, with strong allies in government. In the words of Maude Barlow, author of Blue Gold, The Fight to Stop the Corporate Theft of the World’s Water, “It’s important to remember that it’s a very small, incestuous circle - these water companies, the World Water Council, the World Bank,

 the World Trade Organization, the IMF.
There’s a lot of money to be made from the commodification of water, and these people know
 that whoever controls water is going to be
 both very rich and very powerful.”
The momentum for privatization is considerable.
If we are to protect our public water resources and prevent
 the nightmare scenario of for-profit corporations meting out costly water to a thirsty world,
 the time to act is now.
Public water activists argue that,
 because water is a necessity of life,
 no individual or corporation should have
the right to possess ownership and place
a value on the resource.
 In short, water is for life, not for profit.
Advocate and author Vandana Shiva
resolutely states, “Water is a commons because
 it is the basis of all life. Water rights are
 natural rights and thus usufructuary rights,
  meaning that water can be used,
 but not owned.”
Ashley Powdar

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