http://www.theguardian.com/money/201...mpanies-stocksShould water be available to everyone to use without restrictions and imposed prices? Should we allow fresh water to only be used through regulated and limited amounts?Today, throughout most of North America and Europe, we take the ready availability of clean, running water for granted.
This summer, however, myriad business forces are combining to remind us that fresh water isn’t necessarily or automatically a free resource. It could all too easily end up becoming just another economic commodity.
At the forefront of this firestorm is Peter Brabeck, chairman and former CEO of Nestle.
In his view, citizens don’t have an automatic right to more than the water they require for mere “survival”, unless they can afford to pay for it. For context, the World Health Organization sets such “survival” consumption levels at a minimum of 20 liters a day for basic hygiene and food hygiene – higher, if you add laundry and bathing. If you’re reading this in the United States, the odds are that flushing your toilet consumes 50 liters of water a day .
Brabeck is right to argue that we risk depleting the world’s supply of fresh water irresponsibly through careless and thoughtless consumption of an apparently free resource. How many lush golf courses should we be sustaining with millions of gallons of water in parts of the world that are naturally arid, like Arizona or southern California?
And then there are the bizarre mixed messages that some California residents are getting: don’t water your lawns in the state’s long-running drought that has depleted its aquifers. On the other hand, some are also being warned they’ll be fined if they don’t keep their lawns and neighborhoods looking nice.
But Brabeck probably isn’t the best standard-bearer for the cause of responsible water management, by any stretch of the imagination.
Consider the fact that as the drought has worsened, Nestle’s Nestle Waters North Americas Inc division – the largest bottled water company in the country – has continued to pump water from an aquifer near Palm Springs, California, thanks to its partnership with the Morongo Band of Mission Indians . Their joint venture, bottling water from a spring on land owned by the band in Millard Canyon, has another advantage: since the Morongo are considered a sovereign nation, no one needs to report exactly how much water is being drawn from the aquifer.
In the Canadian province of British Columbia, Nestle has been using another loophole.
Until this year, British Columbia didn’t have rules that required the company to report how much it drew from the province’s aquifers – or pay a penny to the government’s coffers in exchange for the resource.
As of last year, therefore, Nestle was able to bottle 265m liters of fresh water and pay nothing for the resource that Brabeck believes should have an economic price attached to it – at least, when it is consumers that are paying that price. (For the record: the situation in BC is in the process of changing: a new Water Sustainability Act , passed this spring, will be fully in force by spring 2015.)
If you’re curious to know what a society existing on “survival” water supplies might look like, just take a glance at Detroit. When the city became the largest US municipality ever to file for bankruptcy protection, it’s not all that surprising that they began to look at the payments residents owed to city hall – including delinquent water bills.
Now, instead of letting it slide, the city is cutting off water – leaving thousands, perhaps more than 100,000 of the city’s 700,000 citizens without running water in their homes . If you can’t pay for your water, you won’t get it – although Nestle, and others, will truck in emergency supplies to make sure you’re receiving your “survival” level rations.
After that, like everything else that is a public good, somehow we have to find a way to ensure that adequate supplies of clean water are available to everyone. And we might start by remembering that the summer’s horror story for those in Detroit is still an everyday reality for 40% of the world’s population – most of whom already live below the poverty line.
Imagine the impact on them of turning water into an economic commodity?
Should large corporations have control of water resources where they can use however much they deem necessary?
The Price of Water Watch
- TSR Support Team
- Political Ambassador
- Thread Starter
- 28-07-2014 15:54
- 28-07-2014 16:01
lol if they start charging us for water I'm just going to leave buckets outside and use the rain. Have had to do it before in other countries, it's not difficult. Those companies are lying to try and make more moneyz.Last edited by ChickenMadness; 28-07-2014 at 16:05.
- Community Assistant
- 28-07-2014 16:05
Actually, taxing companies that use lots of water in their production process may not go a miss. It would encourage the development of abatement technologies and less water intensive production processes.
That being said, we have desalinization technology and are an island so don't really need this in the UK. Its perhaps more important for landlocked nations.
- 28-07-2014 16:15
This is a completely ridiculous idea. Without water life cannot survive let alone humans. Restricting it would be a massive human rights **** storm.
Water is one of the few unlimited resources on earth. It would be almost impossible to completely regulate it.