H2O is the new oil: Water, water everywhere? Not so much

Thousands have lived without love, not one without water. -- W.H.Auden
It is now almost six years since the people of Uruguay voted to make access to fresh water a human right. In the years since, the race to privatize the world's fresh water supply has accelerated, encouraged by the water privatization policies of the World Bank.

By almost two to one, Uruguayans elected to amend their constitution to ensure not only that access to piped water and sanitation is a fundamental human value, available to everyone, but also that in planning and policies affecting water, social rights and needs take precedence over economic considerations. Further, it is now national policy in Uruguay that the “public service of water supply for human consumption will be served exclusively and directly by state legal persons,” i.e., not by for-profit companies.

The referendum in the South American nation, the result of a two-year grassroots fight led by a network of trade unions, human rights groups, and environmental organizations, gave a boost (pdf) to the international civil society water movement that hopes to spread the principles reflected in the amendment to other countries and regions and to enshrine the right to water in international agreements.
The world’s water crisis due to pollution, climate change and a surging population growth is of such magnitude that close to two billion people now live in water-stressed regions of the planet. By the year 2025, two-thirds of the world’s population will face water scarcity. The global population tripled in the twentieth century, but water consumption went up sevenfold. By 2050, after we add another three billion to the population, humans will need an 80 percent increase in water supplies just to feed ourselves. No one knows where this water is going to come from. -- Blue Covenant: The Global Water Crisis and the Coming Battle for the Right to Water

Action: Join the People's Water Forum in defense of water as a human right, a public good, and a central component of the global commons.

Further reading:
-> Our Water Commons: Towards a new freshwater narrative by Maude Barlow (pdf) (The Council of Canadians, onthecommons.org)
-> Right to Water: From Concept to Implementation by Celine Dubreuil (pdf) (World Water Council 2006).
-> International Conference on the Right to Water and Sanitation in Theory and Practice - Conference Programme and Abstracts (University of Oslo, University of Oxford, United Nations Development Programme - Oslo 2009-11-26/27)
-> Social movements are working hard in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile and Uruguay to put water services that were privatized in the 1990s back in state hands. -- Who Controls the Water? by Marcela Valente (IPS 2006-07-21).
-> Campaign in Colombia Seeks to Make Water a Constitutional Right by Helda Martínez (IPS 2007-08-29).
-> Cochabamba, the Water Wars and Climate Change by Amy Goodman (Democracy Now! 2010-04-21)
-> Is access to clean water a basic human right? So far, the U.S. says no by Yigal Schleifer (The Christian Science Monitor 2009-03-19).
-> Historical background on Privatizing U.S. Water (Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy 2007)
-> The Business of Water: Privatizing An Essential Resource by Stephen Lendman (Baltimore Chronicle 2010-03-09).

Blue Covenant: The Global Water Crisis and the Coming Battle for the Right to Water by Maude Barlow (New Press 2008-9 - the paperback edition arrives on Saturday 2010-05-15) is a cool, clear, thorough and authoritative overview of a crisis that stretches from North America -- Barlow predicts that as many as 36 states could reach a water crisis in five years -- to Africa and Asia, where desertification has destroyed once vast water resources such as Lake Chad and the Aral Sea.

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