C.P. Water

Examining the Essentials — Water…

Huascaran National Park Peru
Photo Credit: Werner Koenig

…and Our Common Dis-ease

Water is essential for the survival of all forms of life.

Water is a source of life and a natural resource that sustains our environment and supports livelihoods. But it is also a source of risk and vulnerability. In the early 21st century prospects for human development are threatened by a deepening global water crisis.


Debunking the myth that the crisis is the result of scarcity, this Report [United Nations Human Development Report 2006 Beyond scarcity: Power, poverty and the global water crisis] argues that poverty, power and inequality are at the heart of the problem. (United Nations, 2006 | direct link)

Scene from Bolivia's water privatization struggle -- Bechtel Corporation vs. Cochabamba citizen
Photo Credit: Marc Clayton

…and Our Needs Exploited

Who would think of taking advantage to profit from our essential need for life—water?

Giant global corporations have quietly assumed control over the water supply of 300 million people in every continent of the world. (CBC News Indepth, 2001 | direct link)

The picture on the left is a scene from Bolivia’s water privatization struggle. Bechtel Corporation vs. Cochabamba citizens.

A 12-month investigation by journalists in Canada, the U.S., Europe, Asia and Latin America shows that the results range from questionable to disastrous. (Center for Public Integrity, 2003 | direct link)

Water, according to Fortune magazine, is

One of the world’s great business opportunities. It promises to be to the 21st century what oil was to the 20th.” (CBC News Indepth, 2003 | direct link)

Water Baby
Photo Credit: Water Babies

…and Our Needs Nurtured

Ultimately, human development is about the realization of potential. It is about what people can do and what they can become—their capabilities—and about the freedom they have to exercise real choices in their lives.

Water pervades all aspects of human development.

When people are denied access to clean water at home or when they lack access to water as a productive resource their choices and freedoms are constrained by ill health, poverty and vulnerability. Water gives life to everything, including human development and human freedom. (United Nations, 2006 | direct link)

Photo Credit: ©Jarret Schecter

…and Our Response-Ability

Confronting water-related disease—including malaria, which causes 300 to 500 million episodes of sickness and 1.6 to 2.5 million deaths each year – must be done… Diarrhoea remains the leading cause of death from water-related diseases in children. In developing countries it accounts for 21 percent of all deaths in children under 5… (United Nations, 2006 | direct link)

In a world of unprecedented wealth almost 2 million children die each year for want of clean water and adequate sanitation. Millions of women and young girls are forced to spend hours collecting and carrying water, restricting their opportunities and their choices. And waterborne infectious diseases are holding back economic growth and poverty reduction in some of the world’s poorest countries. Beyond the household, competition for water as a productive resource is intensifying. Symptoms of that competition include the collapse of water-based ecological systems, declining river flows and large-scale groundwater depletion.


Conflicts over water are intensifying within countries, with the rural poor losing out. The potential for tensions between countries is also growing, though there are large human development gains to be realized from increased cooperation. (United Nations, 2006 | direct link)



Water politics is politics affected by water and water resources. Because of overpopulation, mass consumption, misuse, and water pollution, the availability of drinking water per capita is inadequate and shrinking as of the year 2006. For this reason, water is a strategic resource in the globe and an important element in many political conflicts. It causes health impacts and damage to biodiversity. The serious worldwide water situation is called water crisis.

UNESCO’s World Water Development Report (WWDR, 2003) from its World Water Assessment Program indicates that, in the next 20 years, the quantity of water available to everyone is predicted to decrease by 30%. 40% of the world’s inhabitants currently have insufficient fresh water for minimal hygiene…

To halve, by 2015, the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water is one of the Millennium Development Goals.

Fresh water — now more precious than ever in our history for its extensive use in agriculture, high-tech manufacturing, and energy production — is increasingly receiving attention as a resource requiring better water management and sustainable use.

Is privatization the answer to providing clean water for everyone?

The division of unwholesome and wholesome frames presented for each topic throughout this website is to contrast the pros and cons of wholesome and unwholesome choices.

Unwholesome Frame

Five farmers were shot dead…

On 13th June 2005, 5 farmers were shot dead in Tonk during a protest demanding their share in the water from Bisalpur dam, which is diverting water from villages to the city of Jaipur under an [Asian Development Bank] [ADB] project for water sector “reforms” in the State of Rajasthan …

The real politics of water is … World Bank / ADB and other aid agencies creating water markets for global water [Multinational corporations] [MNCs] while robbing the Indian people both hydrologically and financially… [T]he World Bank started to push the Delhi government to privatize Delhi’s water supply… The contract between Delhi Jal Board … and the French company Ondeo Degrement (subsidiary of Suez Lyonnaise des Eaux Water Division—the water giant of the world), is supposed to provide safe drinking water for the city …

On December 1, 2004, water tariffs were increased in Delhi. While the government stated this was necessary for recovering costs of operation and maintenance, the tariff increase is more than ten times what is needed to run Delhi’s water supply…

The tariff increase is not a democratic decision, nor a need based decision. It has been imposed by the World Bank… The tariff increase hides significant increases…

Cremation grounds, temples, homes for the disabled, orphanages which paid Rs. 30 will now pay thousands of rupees….

The World Bank driven policies explicitly state that there needs to be a shift from the social perception to a commercial operation. This worldview conflict lies at the root of conflicts between water privatization and water democracy. Will water be viewed and treated as a commodity, or will it be viewed and treated as the very basis of life?…

The poor peasant, already struggling under the burden of debt, driven to suicide, will be wiped out if she/he is denied access to water and made to pay for a resources that is their common property… (Kanbur, 2007 | direct link)

Wholesome Frame

“Water is a public good…

Water is a commons, a public good. Privatization is the enclosure of the water commons. Water privatization aggravates the water crisis because it rewards the waste of the affluent, not the conservation of resource prudent communities. Sustainable and equitable use needs water democracy, not water privatization.”

“Water is a fundamental and inalienable human right and a common good that every person and institution of this plane should protect. This resource is, like air, a heritage of humanity and must be declared that way.

Water is not a merchandize and no person or institution should be allowed to get rich from the sale of it. It should not be privatized, marketed, exported or transferred to a few multinational companies, which today already control 90 percent of privatized utilities. For the GATT, NAFTA and FTAA, water is a commodity, an investment, a simple service for commercial use and profit.”

Leaving to one side the concern about monopoly market structure […] this perspective is fundamentally opposed to the buying and selling of water. This is difficult for economists with their “consequentialist gene” to comprehend. Why take such a position? Why not base the argument on the consequences of alternative arrangements—state, market, or in between?

The answer can perhaps be found if we pose the following question. On this argument, why not leave the market for child sex to a consequentialist decision? Or the market for human slaves? Reflection on this will reveal that there are some commodities, the trading of which cannot be countenanced no matter what the consequences. Indeed, the consequences may be harmful, but that is not the point. The argument stops well before we get to those. At the very least the argument is at a different level.

(Kanbur, 2007 | direct link)

Minds, Hearts & Souls Working Together

I disagree with both Heraclitus and Lao Tzu, who

likewise taught that dark and light, yin and yang, are intertwined, and the ego’s attempt to treat them separately, or favor one over the other, is the source of error and conflict. (Larsen, 2007, pp. 31 & 97)

I believe that to favour one over the other can be the sensible wholesome right thing to do.

I also disagree that

there’s nothing that exists which shouldn’t exit. (Kaufman, 2001, p. 357)

In the here and now, I agree, we cannot be other than we are and our conditions cannot be other than what they are—but that only holds for this present moment. Opportunity for change is already possible in the next moment if we are willing to realize change.

It is as simple as pressing this
Take Action! button which will take you to the water projects that are currently elected and supported by the CHITTAUM Water ACTION Circle debates.