by Asinus Asinum Fricat
Sat May 17th, 2008 at 06:10:41 AM EST
Scouring the "internets" for water news I came across this dire warning:
Water: the Incoming Apocalypse. Not many people realize the seriousness of this issue.
Oil, of course, still dominates world economics and politics. But some day in the not so distant future, with peak oil, alternative fuels and other clean technologies, combined with the rising costs of extracting oil, will diminish petroleum's influence once and for all. Water will be the next oil. One hundred years ago, if someone had told you that water will be sold in stores, under "premium" brand names for as much as $3 for a liter, you would have said that this person is insane.
Well, insanity has caught up to reality. Water privatization is gaining on us, and unless we act, fast, you will be paying through the nose for every liter of water.
Cross-posted at DKos and PolitiCook
Diary rescue by Migeru
Somehow a necessity of life has become a commodity. Not only one that people will pay a premium to buy rather than drink for free from the tap, but also one that can be controlled for profit in the developing world. Corporations are jumping on the opportunity. According to a CBC series on the privatization of water,
"In the past ten years, three giant global corporations have quietly assumed control over the water supplied to almost 300 million people in every continent of the world,"
The world's private water industry is dominated by just three corporations: Vivendi and Suez, both of France, and Thames Water of England, owned by the German conglomerate RWE. According to one of the reports in the CBC series, Peter Spillett, a senior executive with Thames Water, calls water the petroleum of the 21st century. Sounds familiar? Even the World Bank encourages poor countries to privatize their water systems (though critics say it subsidizes the private water barons).
Let me go back to these figures again: thanks to the replenishing cycle of rain and evaporation, the amount of water on Earth has remained the same over the past four billion years. Only in this generation has there been concern that we -may be- are ruining our water supply. Of all the water on our planet, 97.5 per cent is sea water and three-quarters of the remaining 2.5 per cent is locked in polar ice caps. The tiny bit left over is drinkable.
For the past decade, the three water companies (mentioned above) have been on an explosive growth program. Just a dozen years ago, they operated private water utilities in 12 countries. They now provide drinking water for profit in 56 countries, according to a new study by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).
The water business has gone from being seen as a low-return utility, to a source of "blue gold."
The world is running out of fresh water. Humanity is polluting, diverting and depleting the wellspring of life at a startling rate. With every passing day, our demand for fresh water outpaces its availability, and thousands more people are put at risk. Already, the social, political and economic impacts of water scarcity are rapidly becoming a destabilizing force, with water-related conflicts springing up around the globe (Darfur, Lebanon etc...) Quite simply, unless we dramatically change our ways, between one-half and two-thirds of humanity will be living with severe freshwater shortages within the next quarter-century.
Who owns the water? Does the city agency that pipes water to your home actually own it? Can you legally pump water right out of a river? Who owns the rain that runs off your roof? Who sets the price for water? Should water be owned by a person, group, or business? How do all the other species dependent on water figure into the picture? Faced with the suddenly well-documented freshwater crisis, governments and international institutions are advocating the privatization and "commodification" of water. Water, say the World Bank and the United Nations, is a "human need," not a "human right." These are not semantics; the difference in interpretation is crucial. A human need can be supplied many ways, especially for those with money. No one can sell a human right.
Recent dire predictions about the future "water wars" the Middle East will surely experience due to growing water scarcity, increasing populations, and worsening pollution of existing water sources have in part helped prioritize the issue of water and water management at the international level--most recently, at Davos 2008. Water will become a more contentious issue in the Middle East as the water crisis worsens in the coming decades, and the 20th century paradigm of water being a "matter of sovereignty" will only exacerbate conflict.
I don't have any answers to all these questions. We can only hope that human ingenuity will save the day, as this news - which just hit the internet - may offer:
Scientists in Norway are working on a new filtration method which will release more drinking water in the world, by screening out pesticides and bacteria.