Blue Communities Fight Against The Greed Of Water Privatization
Water insecurity is one of the most pressing problems humanity faces in the world today, which is why water privatization is an evil that must be fought. And that’s what Canadian activist Maude Barlow and “Blue Communities” are doing.
The worst perpetrator of water privatization is Nestle, which sucks up millions of gallons from freshwater sources such as rivers and lakes across the country for pennies on the dollar before selling it at a profit of billions of dollars every year, which not only robs the public of their precious water supply, it also perpetuates the plastics crisis.
To Nestle and other bottling companies, water is nothing more than a commodity that people should have to buy, meaning people should only have access to water if they can afford to pay the price, like healthcare.
The Council of Canadians, a group founded by Barlow, seeks to end water privatization and has already won a victory by getting the United Nations to declare water a human right.
In an interview, Barlow discussed the problem water privatization and her work to end it.
“Water privatization has been proven in many studies and in real experience to be a terrible mistake,” Barlow said. “Handing control of water services to private companies removes public oversight of a crucial source of life and of what should unquestionably be a public service.”
Indeed, private companies can basically treat the “product” however they want. And that usually breeds an abusive system that puts vulnerable waterways and the ecosystems they support at serious risk as more and more water is pumped out and the water level drops to unsustainable lows.
Furthermore, people end up paying higher prices for water when private companies control it.
“Private water and wastewater services employ fewer staff, cut corners on source protection, provide poorer customer service and charge higher rates,” Barlow explained, going on to point out that hundreds of cities have end water privatization precisely because of poor management, abuse and greed.
“Since 2000 some 267 municipalities around the world that had tried water privatization — including some big cities such as Paris and Berlin — have returned the management of their water services to public control,” she said. “In many cases, the fight was long and intense and it cost the public money to buy back their water systems.”
“When water is bottled for commercial sale, it is privately owned and many of the wells and water sources used by the big water bottling companies are under multi-year contracts,” she continued. “Water is also considered a tradable good in “free trade” agreements and subject to the market disciplines of trade rules. Foreign investors can and have claimed ownership of water sources they use to produce their product in another country.”
For people in the United States, that should be especially concerning. A Chinese company could swoop in and buy up the rights to an American freshwater source, depriving our own citizens of water while hoarding it for their own people.
It’s truly a scary situation that threatens our own ability to get the water we need to live.
“There is a mighty contest taking place in our world: Is water a commodity to be put on the open market like oil and gas or a public trust and a human right to be guarded as a commons for all time?” Barlow went on. “This has been the fight of my life.”
It sure has been, and her efforts have given rise to “Blue Communities” that strive to take back our water resources from private hands.
“A Blue Community offers a vision for the future based on the belief that water is a human right and a public trust,” Barlow explained. “It also tackles the growing crisis of plastic pollution by committing a municipality (or university or place to worship, etc.) to phasing out bottled water on its premises. A Blue Community realizes that we cannot protect source water and watersheds if we turn the decision-making about local water sources over to private investors.”
That’s true. Private companies only care about their bottom line. So they’ll disregard the cost to the environment and bottle as much water as possible. Once the damage is done, it’s hard to reverse or repair.
And it’s only getting worse because humans are abusing water in so many ways.
“We humans are polluting, mismanaging, diverting and over-extracting water at an unprecedented rate and the supply of clean water is dramatically dropping just as the demand is skyrocketing,” Barlow noted, concluding by warning that the future of water insecurity is going to create divisions.
“The water crisis, just like the climate crisis, is a visceral threat to human rights as the competition for water is pitting rich against poor, urban against rural, industrial development against Indigenous survival, and region against region,” she said. “Only if we come together to protect water and share it more justly will we avoid the conflict that is hovering at the edges of our lives.”
As global temperatures rise, freshwater will become even more scarce, resulting in longer and more severe droughts and humanitarian crises on a scale that we have never seen before. Private companies are taking advantage of that desperation in the name of profit all while creating problems for the places they are stealing water from to sell. It’s time to put an end to this greedy exploitation of water before all of us suffer the consequences.
Featured Image: Wikimedia