Local collectives needed to prevent privatisation of water resources

Ahead of World Water Week 2014, new research has concluded that the world's water reserves will increasingly fail to meet demand over the coming years, leaving a third of the global population without adequate drinking water by 2025.

According to a study by University of Leicester experts Dr Georgios Patsiaouras, professor Michael Saren and professor James Fitchett, local communities should be given control of the water in their area in order to stop private companies profiteering from shrinking water supplies.

“Increased competition between nations and institutions for access to clean water will create a global marketplace for buying, selling and trading water resources,” explained Patsiaouras. “There will be an increase in phenomena such as water transfer, water banking and mega-engineering desalination plants emerging as alternative and competing means of managing water supply.”

The experts predict that nations will begin to sell key water sources – such as lakes, rivers and groundwater reserves – to companies, meaning the supply of water around the world will soon resemble the market for oil and minerals.

Community control

This new ‘water economy’ will only work in the favour of countries and communities that can afford to bid the highest amounts for water – while poorer and drought-stricken countries might see water supplies becoming even more scarce. 

To avoid this, Patsiaouras argues that control over water should be localised, with communities taking control over lakes and other water sources in their area, prioritising public health over profit.

“Although the majority of governments around the world have chosen hybrid water supply delivery models – where water supplies are controlled by both the state and private companies – the role and importance of culture and community in sustainable market development has been woefully under-examined.”

Viable solution

Patsiaouras concludes that transforming water into a global commodity is a dangerous move since water is essential for human survival.

“Cooperative alternatives have offered and will continue to offer viable solutions for the Global South, especially in light of the fact that conventional delivery systems have tended to favour the interests of wealthy citizens and affluent neighbourhoods,” he said.

The study comes just a few days before World Water Week 2014, which puts the global water debate firmly in the spotlight and prompts major global corporates to raise the profile of today’s most pressing water challenges.

Luke Nicholls

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