Monday, November 28, 2011

The Case for Water

A lot of us take for granted the access we have to an unlimited supply of potable water.  We shower every day, wash our cars, go to water parks.  Some prioritize the taste, eschewing the tap for some designer bottle.  That is, perhaps our right for achieving development in this country.  Running water is an intellectual throwback to our ancestors, one of the first development rules that the ancients learned.  You can't develop a nation without water.

I say this only to get you in the right mind when I state the next sentence.  There are people out there who are very interested in taking that right away from you.  They want to take your water and then sell it back to you.  To me, water privatization is one of the most disgusting casualties of progress.  And it's a very real horror.

Case in point, Africa, where a number of multinational corporations have long been climbing over each other to privatize the continent's water.  The corporations manage to leverage Western governments and organizations to help in their agenda, mainly by stipulating that the African countries receive no aid or loans unless they concede to privatization.  The African governments, many imbalanced and corrupt, are in no position to resist.

For anyone who isn't immediately convinced, an analogy a little closer to home.  There is another institution, once thought a necessary  communal expense for the greater good, that is now steering into private holdings.  Prisons.  What happens to the simple phone call when a private company takes over?  The price of the call raises at least 300%, not generally, always.

What we see in places like South Africa are companies who are tasked with building a water infrastructure then charge the residents for the full cost recovery of the business.  The plus is running water.  But there's a storm of concequences that ensue.  For the water residents paid a fraction for before,  they now pay many times more.  No longer can they go down to the watering hole and fetch it themselve's either.  There's a wall of oposition for that.  A fence, and men with guns.  South America's worst outbreak of Cholera followed when people searched riskier avenues for this life giving substance. Those who bought and can't afford to pay the bill get sued.  Furthermore, we see companies who see no interest in investing further past the first step.  After years under agreement, companies refuse to add new taps, pipes and so on while still collecting tax incentives from both governments.

Don't think the companies won't do it here either.  Nestle recently failed to buy some of the Great Lakes supply, thanks to Michigan residents, but it is a short lived triumph.  The Water Wars have been silently going on for a decade.

What does this have to do with my book?  Let's just say water is a big part of the drama.

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