(Water Supplies Will Be the Top Sustainability Challenge).
How should water privatization be addressed?
In the United States, specific issues pertaining to water privatization must be considered and seriously addressed. For one, “… issues such as equity and sustainability should be addressed” (Cotta). The United States must tackle more than financial controls over private operators to also include social and environmental factors as well, “It recommends that water service providers ensure that environmental and social issues are considered from the beginning in the development of contracts between municipal entities and private corporations” (Cotta). Overall, water privatization is a subject that must render an interdisciplinary, multifaceted approach to deliver the best results for the majority of people and for the environment. There are many factors, interests, actors, and concerns that must be taken into consideration in dealing with and making policy decisions about water privatization.
Although there might be some positive benefits from privatization such as efficiency, the public sector should have core functions that, “… include the ultimate decision making authority over the assignment of water rights as well as oversight authority to protect and secure both the rights of third parties and those private and public activities and values that may depend on existing uses” (Draper). Thus, water can be privatized in some aspects, but the public sector should control the rights to water for the most advantageous results for the majority.
The William & Mary Environmental Law and Policy Review argues that although water may be a human right, “both human rights and national security protections are inadequate to guarantee that all people will receive sufficient quantities of good quality water to meet basic human needs” (Arnold 781). Instead, the United States needs legislation and legal doctrines that limit private control over water sources. Although the mass majority of U.S. citizens do not support water privatization, there is not enough power to overrule the billion dollar industries and select few men in power who are leading the conversation. Therefore, the United States needs “comprehensive principles of public stewardship of water resources to support human life and national security” (Arnold 781).
In 2009, Maude Barlow, Senior Advisor on Water to the President of the United Nations, wrote a letter addressing the pressing concern of water privatization. Barlow specifically acknowledges that water privatization requires a “multifaceted, interdisciplinary approach” for the best results, “Yet to be successful, these partnerships need to be in keeping with the UN development agenda and the goals of our Organization, and must take into account and reflect the emerging trends in international law, including international human rights law” (Barlow). Barlow goes on to state, “It is important that the United Nations insist on more clarity on the issue of “commodification” of water and articulate a rights-based approach on access to water” (Barlow). Thus, Barlow favors water as a right over a commodity and sees this perception as a key issue to address within the United Nations.
Overall, there is no simple, short, easy, or fast solution. This is a conversation that requires “long-range place-based planning with transparency and public participation,” public investment, water conservation, watershed protection, water quality controls, full-cost pricing with subsidies to those unable to pay full costs, and heightened security measures (Arnold 781).
As seen in the video above, there is substantial significance for implementing water policy. To begin with, there is scare knowledge and scholarship on water sustainability, which affects individuals’ understanding of water privatization. There needs to be much more focus and education on the issue of water. Through educated discourse, solutions to water sustainability and water privatization will be reached since they are such complex matters. These topics are also subject to numerous, often conflicting, interests, actors, and interpretations. Nevertheless, changes are essential to sustain human life, equity, and the environment. Water is a crucial component of sustainability that should render much more attention and action in local, national, and global affairs and address the controversial topic of privatization.
“All of us – the United Nations, Governments, the private sector and organized civil society – must join forces to find solutions and positive ways forward. Together we must reassert our role as stewards of planet Earth, a role that has been abandoned for so long. We must recognize that the narrow, profit-driven approach to the precious elements of life is leading us to a dead end, not only for humanity but for all life on our beleaguered planet. We must find new respect for what has been entrusted to our care and manage our resources for the good of all” (Barlow).