The Commodification of Water: A Horror Story in the Making?

The Commodification of Water: A Horror Story in the Making?

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According to NASA, 70% of the world’s floor is roofed in water. Even although this appears to be rather a lot, it seems that it isn’t sufficient due to all that water, solely 2.5% is freshwater and safe to eat. With the mixed challenges of local weather change and inhabitants development, it’s clear that there’s not sufficient water for the longer term. So a lot in order that the United Nations projects that by the yr 2050, two-thirds of the world’s inhabitants will likely be affected by water shortage.

Generally, water has been considered a pure useful resource, topic to frequent possession by all individuals. This implies that whoever desires water ought to have entry to it. You would possibly say that you simply already purchase bottled water and it’s not owned by all individuals. This is true. In actuality, what you got is the liquid the model put in a bottle and bought to you. The water at its supply, as a pure useful resource stays free and you’ve got as a lot proper to it as say Nestle. So, Nestle can refuse to promote you a bottle of water. However, they can’t cease you from fetching from the river the place they supply their water.

This is cheap given how necessary water is to us as people and the planet as a complete. It is cheap to anticipate that one ought to get entry to water once you activate the faucet or every other time you want it. It is that this perception that there’s water and it’s cheap that everybody ought to have entry to it that makes the common particular person unaware that there are individuals who suppose in any other case. Enter “commodification” of water; an try and put a worth on water.

The Commodification of Water: A Horror Story in the Making?
Photo: Cédric Dhaenens

Commodification means placing an financial worth on one thing. Therefore, the commodification of water refers back to the course of of remodeling water, particularly freshwater, from a public good right into a tradable commodity also referred to as an financial good. This implies that water stops being a pure useful resource and turns into a product from which the house owners can extract most revenue. Australia has led the world on this with the introduction of restricted water buying and selling in Victoria, and the National Competition Policy within the early Nineties. The adoption of nationally agreed water reform packages in 1994 and 2004 additional facilitated the growth of water markets throughout related valleys and ultimately state borders and now extra nations are geared to observe swimsuit.

In concept, commodification is sensible. It tries to faucet into the human drive for self preservation. Water can’t be nicely preserved as a result of it belongs to everybody and nobody, subsequently desires takes care of it. However, when you take away it and provides it to particular individuals, they’ve the motivation to guard it in order to guard their pursuits for survival or revenue. In concept no less than.

This transfer in direction of commodification began with the privatisation of water utilities in some elements of the world. This after all was not sufficient. The final purpose is to privatise the water itself. So, with commodification, water may be traded such because the likes of oil and gold. In sensible phrases, an funding financial institution buys the water rights to a area which can embody all rivers and water reserves in that area. This turns into an funding for the corporate. This funding is purchased and bought on the commodities trade just like the inventory trade or within the case California, a water index trade. This implies that water turns into topic to market forces equivalent to provide and demand. Now, as outlined earlier, water is getting scarcer and naturally will at all times be in demand. Therefore, the costs can solely go in a single path; up. Farmers who need entry to water must purchase it from the corporate. Any farmer who can’t afford it merely fails to get water or hopes for rain. That method, water grows in worth and waste is eradicated.

Related Post: Smart Agriculture Could Be the Answer to Water Scarcity

Inspecting crops on the farm. Photo: Annie Spratt.

Our actuality although is that we already worth water; a lot that we equate water with life. What economists and bankers argue is that for one thing so valuable and useful, we don’t deal with it so. In my opinion, that is merely capitalist-speak for what they actually imply which is “…for one thing so useful, why are we not making earnings from it?”, an immoral argument that may solely be made by grasping criminals in fits.

The acknowledged argument right here is that placing a value on water and buying and selling it is going to present areas which want water probably the most and allocation will likely be optimised thus fixing our looming water disaster. I consider that these individuals are not excited about an answer. An answer means abundance of water and that’s not the purpose right here. The purpose is revenue from management of a commodity, and management can solely come from shortage. This is why we discover ourselves within the yr 2021 combating to cease grasping bankers from controlling water belongings as a substitute of discussing methods to create ample water for everybody.

When I first learn concerning the makes an attempt at commodification of water, my knee-jerk response was to sentence it in its entirety. However, I took the time and browse the arguments and analysis on the matter. Having finished this and having understood all sides to the argument higher, I nonetheless unequivocally condemn it in its entirety. I’m a believer within the energy of capitalism and revenue to drive innovation, however I additionally perceive the infinite capability of man for greed. This is a kind of instances the place capitalism is a particularly unhealthy concept.

Now as a lot as I maintain this view, I additionally consider it will be important for us all to face the fact of the looming water disaster. As we battle the grasping hordes on the gate who search to make our water their riches, it’s essential for us to simply accept and start to do higher. Water use and administration at current is nothing to jot down residence about. Household leaks can waste roughly almost 900 billion gallons of water yearly, and this equals the annual family water use of almost 11 million properties. The global water footprint is estimated at 9 trillion tons per yr. That’s virtually 300,000 tons of water used a second. To put this into perspective, a median U.S. citizen uses 100 gallons (375 liters) per day with tons of waste and sewage equally being produced. If we proceed with enterprise as common, then water will develop extra scarce and economists and financiers will achieve extra floor of their argument.

So it will be important that we begin taking steps to alter our life appropriately and preserve as a lot water as doable. This greater than something will enhance water abundance and moot the thought of “placing a value on water”. For occasion, in 2019, the South African metropolis of Cape Town, turned one of many first cities near Day Zero; the day the place they must flip off town’s water and begin rationing. With that prospect looming over the heads of all residents, water use and administration by Cape Town’s residents modified drastically. Partly because of this, Day Zero was pushed again and the countdown has stopped completely.

On this problem of water sacricty and commodification, our world is approaching Day Zero. For you and I, one of the best time to behave was yesterday.

The second finest time is now.

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Cover picture of girls accumulating water manually from a nicely. Photo by Albert Gonzalez Farran/UNAMID.

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