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article imageOp-Ed: Water privatization — Corporates vs public interest, again

By Paul Wallis     Jul 15, 2014 in Environment
Sydney - Many environmentalists have been highly skeptical of the chronic mismanagement of water resources worldwide in the last couple of decades. Some also suggest that global food giant Nestlé is behind moves to privatize water supplies.
Quoted in The Financial Times, Nestlé chairman Brabeck said that water resource management problems were more urgent than climate change, and not receiving enough attention.
Big miners, also chronic water users, would agree. Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton recently spent $3 billion on a desalination plant to avoid clashing with “fragile” water resources in Chile. (Rio also found a way to manage water to help Australian agricultural communities, but that's very much the exception to the rule in the mining sector. Fracking is also doing a lot of damage to water supplies.)
Manufacturers would also agree. A company called InterfaceFLOR discovered that new manufacturing techniques for its eco-friendly carpets saved it about $500 million in water usage alone, reducing their water intake by 83 percent.
These are the exceptions. At the moment, the suspicion, and general expectation, is that the public will again get the short straw when the big dollars start moving in to water. There’s big money to be made by privatizing water, and Nestlé, to its eternal discredit, has been severely criticized for another statement by Mr Brabeck:
Story of Stuff.com:
Nestlé's Chairman of the Board, Peter Brabeck, has explained his philosophy with "The one opinion, which I think is extreme, is represented by the NGOs, who bang on about declaring water a public right. That means as a human being you should have a right to water. That’s an extreme solution."
Since that quote has gotten widespread attention, Brabeck has backtracked, but his company has not. Around the world, Nestlé is bullying communities into giving up control of their water. It's time we took a stand for public water sources.
Damn straight. Only a thoroughbred corporate cookie cutter senior executive would know how to make a looming global catastrophe worse, and to antagonize a huge number of people at the same time. “Extreme solution”? How’s this for an extreme solution — No water, no law. The bottom line here is that people will just take what they need. Water isn’t a “public right.” It’s a human right, by virtue of need. No water means death, in about 3 days for most people. It could also mean death for those obstructing supply. Does anyone think parents will let their kids die of thirst?
What are you going to do, put every drop of water on Earth under armed guard?
Why should corporations have more rights than people?
If people don’t have a “right,” corporations have less right.
This arrogant, insular, high-handed corporate behavior is social suicide. If corporations don’t acknowledge the rights of people, why should people pay any attention to corporate property rights? There is absolutely nothing stopping people from breaking the law, except their inbuilt social instincts. Those instincts are trumped by survival instincts. No water, no law means forget the rulebook.
The problems
Meanwhile, back at the real issues, if some corporations can achieve big results, most don't seem to be trying too hard, and increasing populations are making the global water situation much worse on a daily basis.
The problems are huge:
• Most of the world’s water isn’t recycled
• Most water mains leak enormous amounts of water
• Storm water isn’t harvested
• Countries like Australia and the US don’t maintain strategic reserves of water
• Underground storage, which reduces evaporation, isn’t used
• Water pressure is generally high, increasing waste
• Consumers tend to use water on a time basis, rather than by volume, meaning they use more
• Droughts create massive water deficits over time
Apart from a few scattered projects, there is nothing resembling a global effort to manage water responsibly.
Conflicts in the making
Recent UN and other data points to water shortages as serious future risks for conflict and food supply. Agriculture, a huge user of water, has been slow to adapt to more economic forms of water supply usage. Irrigation farmers, conscious of the costs, have been making some innovations, but it’s highly debatable whether old style irrigation is going to be viable in future.
The conflicts of interest, prioritizing water supplies, have been another spanner in the works. Demand from corporate, agricultural, and residential water users mean someone is going to lose.
Politicians- The means of denying public water rights
Of course, the world’s politicians have done nothing, as usual, to safeguard the public interest. The world’s foremost lackeys have collectively failed to achieve any sort of working system for managing water on any level. They’re probably too busy starting wars and grovelling to geriatric oil companies and helping organised crime make a few more bucks, but even by these low standards, they’ve been less effective than usual.
Also as usual, the US has been leading the race to failure. In the big drought decimating the western states, they can’t even manage a dispute between a farm and a petrochemical plant in Texas. The petrochemical plant, of course, had “senior rights” over food production. Even when they get it right, they get it wrong.
The New York Times:
...Frank DeStefano was feeding a 500-acre cotton crop with water from the Brazos River 16 months ago when state regulators told him and hundreds of others on the river to shut down their pumps. A sprawling petrochemical complex at the junction of the Brazos and the Gulf of Mexico held senior rights to the river’s water — and with the Brazos shriveled, it had run short.
State regulators ordered Mr. DeStefano and others with lesser rights to make up the deficit. But they gave cities and power plants along the Brazos a pass, concluding that public health and safety overrode the farmers’ own water rights.
Now Mr. DeStefano and other farmers are in court, arguing that the state is wrong — and so far, they are winning.
System? Planning? Providing for the future? No such thing. In Austin, they cut off water to rice farmers to support the city. In Colorado, the rural west of the state is cutting up rough about supplying the urbanized east. Northern California is supplying the south with water. Even the states are arguing about river diversions reducing supplies to them.
Countries like Australia, hit regularly with big, expensive droughts, are no better. Again, no decisions, no future provisions, no modern methods. Just lots and lots of dollars flying around into various pockets while the country loses billions of dollars. Dumb, dumber and dumber to the nth power.
These guys can’t get beyond today’s problems, let alone manage corporate greed and tomorrow’s problems. This disorganized mess could destroy nations and societies with ease. Imaging not drinking for a few days. Now think about fun things like kidney and liver failure. There’s always a bright side, when you talk about massive global mismanagement.
Note: Story of Stuff.com has a petition to Nestlé regarding water rights on the above link. You could also try getting in touch with your duly elected freeloaders, but why bother? You don’t ask a disease to cure itself.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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