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.


Vera Diepen
Vera Diepen1 years ago

thanks for the article.

Jim Ven
Jim V1 years ago

thanks for the article.

Robert Hamm
Robert H3 years ago

I am sure there could be some sucess stories….like David mentioned….but for every sucess story there will be someone else dipping their hand into the HUGE pot of money syphioning some out for themselves. Kind like the HUGE retirement funds that seem to have magically vanished from some comanies. The problem isnt the honest ways of growing money its with the crookss who see all that cash and cant keep their fingers outt of it.…..even though it isnt theirs. And suddenly its all gone.

Robert Hamm
Robert H3 years ago

Bush made absolutely NO Bones about weanting to destroy SS PERIOD. You can dress it any wrapping paper you want. The end product is the same.
He didnt stop simply becasue the DEmocrats had a fit in congress. and you know it!!! The COUNTRY had a fit and told him so.

Linda McKellar
Past Member 3 years ago

DAVID - "To insure all that paid into it are paid back". So YES, you will collect benefits accrued by what are, in fact, Socialist programmes. That's all I wanted to know. You will collect social benefits. Your ethics are not of such strength that you will stand by them & refuse. You say so so security, etc will go broke - well, if they do it is because of mishandling NOT because the system itself is faulty. Same with health care, it is exorbitantly costly due to misappropriation of funds by the higher ups. In THAT case however, it is your beloved PRIVATE sector that is siphoning off funds to enrich themselves. They're not satisfied with profit but only with ludicrous profit. It all comes down to greedy people who milk the system whether it is public or private. BOTH can screw you but if private, that is their sole agenda - money.
I paid for my Canada pension & Health Care & my professional pension. The money put in was used by individuals, government or private, to make a profit & my input was returned to me. If someone profited from it, good for them. Now I also have security from it for the same reason. Problem?
Does the guy with the sign calling Obama socialist (he's FAR from it) & "hands off my Medicare" not seem ironic at all? MEDICARE IS SOCIALIST.

Charles S.
Charles S3 years ago

David F , What private entity is it that would take Social Security money, and pay a guaranteed monthly check for as long as you live? Will they guarantee cost of living increases?
Social Security will not go bankrupt soon as you say. It seems people have been saying the same thing for over 70 years now. Social Security works . It gives everyone who pays in some amount of income for as long as they live, with cost of living .increases as the cost of living rises.
Those money grubbing Wall St. , and investment banker can hardly wait to get their hands on that money. You could bet it would disappear within 5 years , if that long. Those people lose billions of dollars of other peoples money all the time, and the people are out of luck.
They can't stand that Social Security , and Medicare are two successful programs that work , and they can't get their hands on the citizens money.
I believe that you would be one of those so called government employees who don't give a shit., because it is not their money. But I believe the majority of government employees are honest , and try to do a good job.. I have seen plenty of dishonest people who don't give a shit in many private companies.

Milan Lorman
Milan Lorman3 years ago

For a while these comments came from people who see the trend - first Land, then Water , next the Air we breathe - all being privatized. All of a sudden it appears to be all about Medicare.

The article is about the transfer of Natural Resources into private hands. Who has derailed a budding debate and WHY ? Well - we have a fair idea why and as to WHO? - my guess is: some people who plan or hope to hop on the privileged bandwagon as soon as they get the chance.

And, of course those already on the Teat of the Landowning privilege. At least some of them may be beginning to worry about that "time-honored" privilege one day being abolished.

Maria Teresa Schollhorn
Maria Teresa S3 years ago

Thanks for sharing.

Cathleen K.
Cathleen K3 years ago

David F: What planet do you live on? Medicare drops fraudulent providers ALL the time. Those two doctors I referenced went belly up because Medicare wouldn't pay them anymore. Private insurers get bilked by fraudsters at the same rate as Medicare; they are merely less competent at catching them.

How did all those private contractors, making 10 times what the soldiers were paid, work out for us in Iraq? Remember Fallujah, you dumb schmuck? You cannot examine factual information if you see everything through religiously colored glasses, and you believe in the magic of the free market as an article of faith; Adam Smith thinks you're an idiot. Your faith is no different than that of those jackasses blowing themselves up in the Middle East because they think they're going to go straight to heaven and be rewarded with 72 virgins. You're irrational.

Robert Hamm
Robert H3 years ago

And there you have your answer Linda. He is all talk and no action and hedge hedge hedge. Like most John Brichers.