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The Future of Water

By David Hatchett

oday’s children are dependent on the world that we leave them. The future water supply worldwide is their inheritance. PUMPED UP FOR PEACE is a UN sponsored program that gives students an opportunity to participate in finding solutions to global problems. Through their Cyberschoolbus website, the program provides slideshows and booklets that focus on the efforts of the Huacaria community to improve the quality of their water.

The Native Community of Santa Rosa de Huacaria lies between the lowland Amazon tropical rain forest and the cloud forests of the Andean foothills. The students are introduced to an in-depth investigation of indigenous peoples and water related health issues. Two activities are included in the program to help students and teachers explore water related themes. One focus activity is an introduction to water filtering and the other theme is how to test rainwater. Water samples can be sent to a laboratory or tested in the classroom with the aid of a water testing kit. The classroom testing will focus on the chemical, biological and physical characteristics of the water. The students can also test the drinking water in their own community, and explore the Millennium Development Goals by researching the progress their own country has made toward increasing access to safe drinking water.

Water is not only a necessity for sustaining life; it is also, like air, a shared ‘common’. That means that it is publicly owned and regulated. Water is not a commodity to be privately owned. The water that is being tapped, bottled, and then sold is our commonly owned water until that water gets into a labeled bottle. The Ogallala Aquifer for instance, runs under several of the prairie states and is being mined at a rate that will empty the aquifer in fifty years. This water is commonly owned and shared by those states and is the source of water for the ‘breadbasket’ of the world.

It is vital that the aquifer be regulated to maintain it as a water source for the future. Any attempt to privatize the Ogallala Aquifer as a commodity to be bought and sold jeopardizes the water supply for the region. Any international corporation that owned the aquifer could sell all of the water in the aquifer to the highest bidder in a GATS post democratic free market world. In other words, pay market value or lose the water.

Post-Democracy began with the signing of GATS, the General Agreement on Trade in Services. An international agency was established with veto power over national laws and regulations. All democracies rely on elected governments with congresses or parliaments, prime ministers and presidents to balance the interests of business and the citizenry. GATS created an international Disputes Panel with the final authority to determine if a national law or regulation is “more burdensome than necessary.” This power of veto effectively relegates national governments to the level of an advisory body. Our American democracy has been diminished to the level of a lobby that the WTO, represented by the Disputes Panel, can consider in their deliberations. The GATS Disputes Panel decides what is “necessary” and what is a burden to free trade and their decision, overrides our national democratically derived laws and regulations.

Obviously we cannot allow private corporations to own the public water that we commonly share. However, when a national bankruptcy occurs, the first demand by the World Trade Organization (WTO) is the privatization of all national assets, a necessary step toward ‘liberalizing’ the economy and relieving the debt. This means that the reckless stewardship of our national economy by any administration could lead to the very bankruptcy that would require the privatization of our publicly owned water whether we like it or not. If such a bankruptcy were to occur, an international corporation will buy up our water at fire-sale prices, just as was done for Bolivia by International Water Limited (IWL), and that led to price gouging combined with dirty water at the tap. Water riots followed.

According to the UN, 1.1 billion people worldwide lack access to safe drinking water today. More than 70% of the earth’s surface could be affected by the impact of development within 30 years. More than half of all people could be living in severely water-stressed areas by 2032.

97.5% of the global waters are saltwater; 2.5% are fresh water. Freshwater comes from different sources. 68.7% of the freshwater is in the form of permanent ice (Artic, Antarctic, alpine mountain ranges, etc.) 29.9% of the freshwater is ground water, mostly deep seated. Only 0.26% of the total fresh water is in lakes and river systems and therefore currently accessible for our needs. Human existence in the future will depend on our ability to tap more of the fresh water available on our planet.

In the February, 2001 International Water Facility presentation to the UN, Mohamed Kassas proposes that an international facility for research and technological development be established to increase our share of global waters. Kassas identifies three areas for technology that must be developed to deal with the shortage of freshwater worldwide.

  • Technologies for desalination of salt and brackish water.

  • Development of pumping technologies for tapping deep-seated ground water.

  • Development of means for transporting bodies of ice from northern and southern oceans to territories of water deficit.

This effort must be a multi-national effort to develop the worldwide supply of freshwater that is not only necessary for life, but is commonly shared by all mankind. It is not something to be privately owned and therefore restricted from those people who cannot afford to pay ‘market value’ for their ‘right to life’.

The hope for the future of our children and water lies in programs such as the UN’s Cyberschoolbus Hope lies in education and proactive efforts. Water must remain in the hands of all of our children, not a select few.

photos courtesy of USDA NRCS

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