Yesterday the Environmental Film Festival in conjunction with FAIR! and Environmental Advocates screened "Blue Gold: World Water Wars" and to say it was eye-opening is an understatement. According to Public Citizen, "31 countries are now facing water scarcity and 1 billion people lack access clean drinking water. Water consumption is doubling every 20 years and yet at the same time, water sources are rapidly being polluted, depleted, diverted and exploited by corporate interests ranging from industrial agriculture and manufacturing to electricity production and mining. The World Bank predicts that by 2025, two-thirds of the world's population will suffer from lack of clean and safe drinking water."
As proof that access to water and war are becoming inseperable, we need look no further than the West Bank where the World Bank reports Israelis have access to more than four times as much water Palestinians have in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The continued struggle in the Sudan is a result of limited water supplies and who controls them, as 44 per cent of Sudan’s population does not having a safe source of drinking water.
Even here in the United States the privatization of water supplies is underway. Some corporate interests want to sell bulk water from the Great Lakes, the world's largest freshwater system. Wisconsin and Michigan have been targeted by giant bottled water companies like Perrier to sell bottled water. As drinking water has been degraded, the bottled water industry is promoting its expensive product as the solution.
The Great Lakes have suffered from pollution, lost two-thirds of their extensive wetlands and experienced a catastrophic loss of biological diversity. Only 3% of the shorelines are suitable for swimming.
Cities have contracted their water services to private companies and now, according to the NY Times, serve about one in 20 Americans. The results have not been good. Atlanta, which contracted in 1999 with United Water seized back control when taxpayers complained of subpar water quality and United Water did not deliver promised improvements.
In smaller communities privatization has also led to problems. In Huber Heights, Ohio in 1993, American Water Works purchased Ohio Suburban Water that provided water for 40,000 customers. The city opposed the sale, concerned that the company would raise rates and extend service to areas beyond the city limits without annexation, thus impairing the city’s ability to grow. The company increased its rates by 30 percent and, at the same time contracted to deliver up to 2 million gallons of Huber Heights’ water a day to an industrial park located outside the city.
It is clear that the access to clean water is a right all people should have and our lawmakers should not aid and abet those that would seek to profit from creating misery either through profiting from operations, distribution, or polluting the water supply.