If you don’t already know, over one hundred thousand people in Detroit are having their water shut off if they’re too far behind on their water bill. In the middle of the summer. This is not like turning off electricity, people can live without electricity. Nobody can survive long without water. As far as I know, no one has died from not being properly hydrated just yet but the fact that this is even happening in the middle of the richest country in the history of the world makes me wonder:
Is this is a test run for something far more dangerous?
If publicly owned water utilities can cut off a service as basic as water to this many people, it’s obvious that a privately held water company can do the same. It doesn’t take much of a stretch of the imagination to see where this will end up.
Last year, the CEO of Nestle, Peter Brabeck, was crucified for saying (several years earlier) that “water is not a human right” and should be privatized to allow the “free market” to determine its price. He was talking about the fact that Americans use far more water than is necessary to live and we waste it while billions do not have access to clean water. This is true but the core of his message is still “water is not a human right.” Take away of all the altruistic sounding language surrounding this core and you are left with a rather chilling vision of the future, one in which water is more valuable than oil and completely controlled by corporations.
Fresh water is becoming an increasingly scarce commodity in the United States. No, we’re nowhere near where some third world countries are but Climate Change is only going to get worse and if the drought conditions in the Midwest and Southwest aren’t already permanent, they will be soon. While the fossil fuel industry is invested in pretending that Climate Change is not real, water companies are already planning for a future in which water has to be controlled for massive profits. Or did you think corporations were quietly snatching up water rights across the country for fun?
When that happens, the price of water will rise and keep on rising. Water companies will find plenty of willing allies in Congress to secure their “right” to control the most essential commodity in the world and to squash any attempt to keep water a public utility.
And let’s not pretend that corporations like Nestle are going to be good custodians of the water supply. They’re going to deplete every resource they can and move on to the next one. Look at what Nestle is doing in California. They’re pumping massive amount of water to bottle and sell in a region suffering from a drought:
Groundwater levels have been declining significantly in Riverside County since 2000 as a result of the drought.
Water researchers have been denied access to the area near the Nestle bottling plant, which covers an area larger than seven football fields and produces an estimated 1 billion bottles of Arrowhead spring water each year.
“If they weren’t pumping, the volume that they’re taking out would be going into either recharging groundwater or providing some surface flows,” said water researcher Peter Gleick, president of the Pacific Institute in Oakland.
And when the taps run dry in people’s homes? I’m sure Nestle will be quite happy to sell them water from some other part of the country that they’re draining for a profit.
If Nestle has its way, there will be no public water utilities. All water will be privatized. Collecting rainwater is actually already illegal in some parts of the country and you can expect that kind of “small government” to increase as corporations look for ways to maximize profits. And once they have a stranglehold on where you get your water from, they will be able to charge whatever the hell they feel like and no one will be able to tell them otherwise. After all, they own the water and your ability to access it is not a human right.
So when I see over one hundred thousand people in a major American city having their water shut off, I don’t just see a city struggling with crushing poverty. I see a legal and constitutional precedent being set where corporations can deprive millions of people of fresh water unless they pay extortionist prices.
Corporations already wield far too much power in America. They control our elections. they control our politicians. They control what news we see. They control (and have poisoned) our food. Are we really prepared to give them control over our water as well?