Tuesday, June 30, 2009

"Unlike oil, there's no substitute for fresh water,"

"Well, they're putting up resistance..."

From Latin America to Africa, a growing moving
is (trying) to ensure water is a human right.

(However)...At the latest World Water Forum meeting March 16 to 22 in Istanbul, the dominant view of water-management issues prevailed. Whether discussing the Parisian water system or problems in South African townships, the prescription was the same: full cost recovery, which means that agencies, even public ones, that provide water must recover the full costs associated with delivering the service. This leaves the door wide open for privatization of our water. Increasingly pro-water-privatization development agencies, such as the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), are insisting that consumers pay more for water.

Full cost recovery policy is immoral, claim organizers of the People's Water Forum -- an alternative to the World Water Forum advocating that water to be managed as a commons for all rather than a commodity for the profit of a few. Water commons activists point out that the full cost recovery strategy is applied only selectively. Poor users who consume the least amount of water bear a disproportionate burden of the cost. A better system would use progressive taxation programs to support public water systems just as they do public schools.

Consider the example of the Finnish company Botnia, operating in Uruguay. Its production of cellulose products consumes 80 million liters of water per day, using a large percentage of the daily output of Uruguay's public utilities at a low, subsidized price. Similar regressive anti-conservation subsidies are found throughout the world -- especially in the United States -- where irrigation water is priced far below cost, a boon for water intensive agribusinesses and a blow to family farmers.

Unlike air, it costs money to deliver clean water, so it's necessary to put a price on its management while taking care not to turn the water itself into a commodity. But the largest users -- and the wealthiest ones -- should pay their fair share and subsidize water use by the world's poorest families.
The article continues with suggestions for meeting these challenges, but of course the final mediator is and always will be the corpoRat bottom line.

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