What Will Happen if Water is Privatized Under the Guise of Conservation?
Will water become the new trend in economic trading? Like oil or gas, financial journalist Suzanne McGee speculates that a time when water is bought and sold on the stock market is not as far away as we’d like to think.
Sure enough, if you type “investing in water” into Google you’ll find countless articles offering advice. One article, 5 Water Investments to Consider, highlights some of the ways that you, yes you, can control one of Earth’s most precious resources. “In the past water has been free to the public and didn’t have monetary value” the article reads. However, through investing in water rights, a lucky few will be able to profit off this basic human necessity:
By 2016, private sector water investments eventually will account for 30 percent of investments in drinking water and wastewater compared to 19 percent now, according to the independent Global Water Fund consultancy.
For example, NGP Global Adaptation Partners, a private equity firm in Irving, Texas, whose parent firm, Natural Gas Partners, has $10.8 billion under management, has started investing in water. “We invest in water rights in the western U.S.,”says Jud Hill, an operating partner at NGP. “We buy farms and farmland, which have senior water rights.”
But don’t worry, the CEOs at the top of this game still believe the average citizen deserves “survival” rations of water. How much is that, by chance? About 7.5 liters per day according to the WHO. The average amount used in an American household of four? According to the EPA that’s 400 gallons of water per day.
Clearly we could cut down on our water consumption, and very well should. However, businesses controlling access to water will likely lead to some very dark places.
For instance, during the recent drought in California, residents were urged to cut their water consumption by about 20 percent. However, while local residents took 2 minute showers and watched their lawns wither and die, Nestle was still able to bottle water in California due to land rights. It’s noted that in a water-rich state this wouldn’t make much difference, but in a desert climate such as Southern California, it can have a devastating impact on the environment.
As Care2 writer Anna Brones put it, “While in the short term, it just seems ridiculous to be drawing water and selling it for a profit in a time when the State of California is suffering from a drought, in the long run, if the water runs dry, there will be much worse consequences.”
Yet as tracks of water start going on the market, this is a future many of us might look forward to.
Peter Brabeck, who has been accused of manipulating natural resources for profit while acting as the CEO of Nestle, is quick to share his opinions on it.
“The fact is they [activists] are talking first of all only about the smallest part of the water usage…I am the first one to say water is a human right. This human right is the five litres of water we need for our daily hydration and the 25 litres we need for minimum hygiene.” For clarity, a one gallon jug equals almost four liters (3.79 to be exact). Flushing a toilet in America uses seven to thirteen liters of water, and a five minute shower uses 50 liters.
According to Brabeck, using low-cost tap water to “fill a pool or wash a car” is unspeakable. However, it might be time to take a quick look at his home in Switzerland, which I have a sneaking suspicion, uses a lot more than 50 liters on any given day.
Calling himself one of the biggest proponents of conserving water, he couches the idea of saving our most valuable resource between talking points which raises a number of red flags.
“Water should be better managed,” he starts. Okay sure I think most people would agree with that. “Should be better valued,” he says next which many people might wonder who is assigning the value? Communities or corporations? And then here comes the real meat, “If we were to give our water value,” he says, “there will be an incentive to invest and look after our water supply.”
Of course Brabeck says very little in terms of restrictions we might place on those who can afford to waste this dwindling resource. No doubt, if you’re willing to pay the price you can fill up as many pools as you want. This, of course, means water is not so much being conserved, as it is making a corporation millions of dollars.
But hey, according to him you’ll still be allowed to flush your toilet at least twice a day, and maybe even sneak in a shower if you watch your usage. Plus you’re always welcome to more if you’re willing to pay for it, because remember, water is precious, but not only that, it’s lucrative as hell.