LCWR Global Concerns CommitteeVolume 14, Number 3 June 2005
Privatization of Water
Resolutions to Action
is an occasional publica-tion of the Global Concerns Committeeof the Leadership Conference of WomenReligious (LCWR). Members of the commit-tee are: Gilmary Bauer, RSM; Mary BrigidClingman, OP; Julie Driscoll, SCN; BarbaraMoore, CSJ; Peggy Nolan, BVM; WalterMaher, CCVI; and Marie Lucey, OSF, staff.Please address correspondence to:LCWR8808 Cameron StreetSilver Spring, MD 20910301-588-4955fax: firstname.lastname@example.org
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by Suzanne Golas, CSJP
ore than a billion peoplein the world lack accessto clean water. Morethan two billion do not haveadequate sanitation. Pollution,waste, depletion and a rapidlygrowing human population arecontributing to a global water cri-sis. On our present path, by 2025,nearly two-thirds of the world’spopulation will experience seriousor severe water shortages. Wholeeco-systems, dependent on water,will suffer devastating effects.The private sector, especially ahandful of transnational corpora-tions, have recognized that wateris the “blue gold” of the 21stcentury. Fortune Magazine of May2000 stated: “Water promises to beto the 21st century what oil wasto the 20th century: the preciouscommodity that determines thewealth of nations.”Ten major corporations are nowdelivering freshwater servicesfor proﬁt. The three biggest areSuez, Vivendi and RWE-AG. Tenyears ago, multinationals servicedabout 51 million people in just 12countries. Today, they deliver waterand wastewater services to nearly300 million customers in more than100 countries. At their present rate ofexpansion, in a decade, the top threewill control over 70 percent of thewater systems in Europe and NorthAmerica. For these multinationalcorporations water is a tradablecommodity to be bought and sold forproﬁt.
he privatization of water is partof an economic philosophy thatdeﬁnes natural resources as“commodities,” the availability anddelivery of which will be determined by liberalized trade and investmentpolicies of the free market. The WorldBank, the International MonetaryFund (IMF) and the World TradeOrganization (WTO) are major actorsin determining policies that ﬂowfrom this philosophy. New loans orthe renewal of loans to developingcountries are dependent on thesecountries’ agreement to privatizewater. In trade agreements negoti-ated through the WTO, multinationalcorporations are free to buy andsell water rights. Major trade agree-ments like the North American FreeTrade Agreement (NAFTA) and theGeneral Agreement on Trade andTariffs (GATT) deﬁne water as acommodity. Countries risk censurefrom the WTO if they try to controlthe export of their water.Multinationals are beginning toconcentrate on the nations of Eu-rope and North America becauseof the greater security of theirmarkets. Vivendi, Suez and RWEhave bought leading US water com-panies -- United Water, AmericanWater Works and US Filter -- whichservice many town and municipali-ties throughout the country.