Who Owns The Water?

The Secret Water Crisis

By Thomas M. Kostigen

Mr. Kostigen strives to educate people about environmental issues through his numerous books. He has kindly focused his environmental enthusiasm around a political issue important to all human beings. We hope you enjoy and please make sure to check out the links at the bottom of this post.

We are facing a crisis that is bigger than the financial mess we are in, is scarier than terrorism, and puts global warming to shame because it is so immediate: We are running out of enough fresh water for ourselves. Without fresh water we as human beings die within about 72 hours. And according to myriad projections, we need to increase our fresh water supply by some 20% over the next decade to meet demand. That’s a difficult task considering almost the exact same amount of fresh water has existed on the planet since the time of dinosaurs. As it stands, five million people die each year because of lack of access to H2O; half of them are children under the age of five. The numbers worldwide and in the US are expected to increase exponentially in the near future.

It doesn’t have to be this way. We can legislate our way out of this crisis. Here’s how: the Clean Water Act has not been updated since 1972 except to be weakened; it should be strengthened. The Act governs the amount of pollution allowable in our water supplies and sets testing criteria. (Perhaps then we won’t have to worry about pharmaceutical drugs getting into our tap water either.) We can also propose bond measures for safer water infrastructure.

Every year legislators (mostly from the “water states” around the Great Lakes basin) put forth legislation to shore up our water supply and increase efficiencies. Every year the legislation gets shot down, or fails to gain enough support. It’s too expensive. It is going to cost an estimated $3 trillion to update the water systems in the U.S., $20 trillion for systems around the world. Meanwhile, we lose up to 40% of our municipal water supplies because of leaks, poor recapture, and mismanagement. In fact, each and every one of us wastes about 2,000 gallons of water per year in the U.S. because of drips and leaks in our homes. Better management on an individual level combined with better management on a municipal level will go a long way toward helping solve the crisis. As well, an international compact needs to be embraced between the business sector and governments to better manage the world water resources. Otherwise, as Nestle’s chief executive told the Financial Times recently, “We will not find sufficient water to produce all the crops.” Remember, we are amidst a food crisis too.

Water, like air, should be an unalienable right. However, increasingly, the public’s water supply is being sold to private corporations. The amount water now provided to the public by private water companies has soared to 10% of the world population and is expected to double over the next decade. “The water companies are now pushing for legislation in the United States to require cash-poor municipal governments to consider privatizing their water systems in exchange for federal funding for water delivery,” writes Maude Barlow in her book, Blue Covenant: the Global Water Crisis and the Coming Battle for the Right to Water.

Privatizing water is a dangerous trend. To be sure, more demand will be seeking the same amount of supply of water (or perhaps even less; some scientists believe global warming has the potential to shrink our fresh water supply by 20% by mid-century. Indeed, droughts that occur every 50 years now are expected to begin occurring every other year by 2100.). That means there will be enormous profit to be had in the water business. Investor T. Boone Pickens expects to make more than $1 billion on his current $75 million investment in water rights, for example.

We need laws to keep our water supply fresh and clean for the good of society — and keep it in society’s interest, not private interests.

Thomas M. Kostigen is the author of You Are Here: Exposing the Vital Link Between What We Do and What That Does to Our Planet (Published by HarperOne). Here is a quote from Thomas Kostigen’s book that will give you a taste for the book:

“We may reduce, reuse, recycle. So we save a tree. We use less gas. We conserve power. What effect do those actions really have on the world? So much of this information is in a vacuum without the necessary context. We have been told, not shown, what issues matter and why.”

Check out the official site for the book [www.readyouarehere.com]

If you want to get more juicy info on the environment, make sure to check out our libraries of Environmental News Articles [www.sundance.tv] as well as Sundance Channel’s original collection of posts found in the GREEN BLOG [www.sundance.tv].