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By Peter Phillips Ph.D.
Sociology Department/Project Censored
Imagine, that we are beyond the energy crisis-in that we are used to paying double or triple prices for what in the previous century was a small part of the family budget. But now we are faced with a new shortage that taps another precious resource. Water only comes through the tap fours hours a day and we are forced to pay ten to hundred times what we paid in the 90s. Welcome to the world of privatized water, where fresh water is treated like a commodity, traded and sold in the international market to the highest bidder.
No longer can you assume a God-given right to drink from a mountain spring, but instead you will have to pay a toll to drink from Enron Springs, Monsanto Wells or receive tap water from Bechtel Water Works. Global consumption of water is doubling every 20 years, more than twice the rate of human population growth. According to the United Nations, more than one billion people already lack access to fresh drinking water. If current trends persist, by 2025 the demand for fresh water is expected to rise by 56 percent more than the amount of water that is currently available. Multinational corporations recognize these trends and are trying to monopolize water supplies around the world. Monsanto, Bechtel, Enron and other global multinationals are seeking control of world water systems and supplies.
The World Bank recently adopted a policy of water privatization and full-cost water pricing. This policy is causing great distress in many Third World countries, which fear that their citizens will not be able to afford for-profit water.
Last year in a little known case of high scale international water marketing, a supertanker was reported to have filled up with water from Lake Erie and after paying the Canadian Government they shipped the water to Southeast Asia.
Maude Barlow, chair of the Council of Canadians, Canada's largest public advocacy group, states, "Governments around the world must act now to declare water a fundamental human right and prevent efforts to privatize, export, and sell for profit a substance essential to all life. Research has shown that selling water on the open market only delivers it to wealthy cities and individuals. The finite sources of freshwater (less than one half of one per cent of the world's total water stock) are being diverted, depleted, and polluted so fast that, by the year 2025, two-thirds of the world's population will be living in a state of serious water deprivation."
Governments are signing away their control over domestic water supplies by participating in trade treaties such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and in institutions such as the World Trade Organization (WTO). These agreements give transnational corporations the unprecedented right to the water of signatory ! compan ies.
Monsanto plans to earn revenues of $420 million and a net income of $63 million by 2008 from its water business in India and Mexico. Monsanto estimates that water will become a multibillion-dollar market in the coming decades.
This international water crisis news story was selected by over 150 faculty and student researchers at Sonoma State University's Project Censored in California as the number one most censored news story for 2000. Credit for original reporting goes to:
- International Forum on Globalization: Special Report, Blue Gold: The Global Water Crisis and the Commodification of the World's Water Supply by Maude Barlow.
- "Just Add Water", by Jim Shultz, THIS, July/August 2000
- "Water Fallout: Bolivians Battle Globalization," by Jim Shultz, In These Times, 5/15/00
- Monsanto's Billion-Dollar Water Monopoly Plans, by Vandana Shiva, Canadian Dimension, February 2000
See Monsanto's Expanding Monopolies, Vandana Shiva, 1999
- "Trouble on Tap, S.F.'s Bechtel Group is privatizing water systems all over the world. Is its hometown next?" by Daniel Zoll, San Francisco Bay Guardian, 5/31/00
- "The Earth Wrecker, The company that won the contract to oversee the rebuilding of S.F.'s water system has a disastrous record worldwide," by Pratap Chatterjee, San Francisco Bay Guardian, 5/31/00
Peter Phillips is an Associate Professor of Sociology at Sonoma State University and Director of Project Censored. Research for this story is from the book Censored 2001, 25th Anniversary Edition, scheduled for release in March of this year from Seven Stories Press.
Peter Phillips Ph.D.
Sociology Department/Project Censored
Sonoma State University
1801 East Cotati Ave.
Rohnert Park, CA 94928