One of the most important and underreported news stories right now is the accelerating corporate privatization of the one natural resource essential to the existence of all life: water. Throughout the world, private corporations are taking over the water distribution and supply systems and running them for profit. Despite the fact that these corporate water barons have a documented track record of decreasing people’s access to water, the IMF and World Bank continue to insist privatization as the answer to the developing worlds water needs.
One of the largest of the water barons is the US firm Bechtel, which has been awarded multi-million dollar contracts to rebuild the water system in Iraq. Due to the 1991 gulf war and the following sanctions, the Iraqi water supply system is not adequate to the nations needs. Despite the millions of dollars of reconstruction funds that have flowed into its coffers, Bechtel has not managed to repair the Iraqi water system over the last year.
Water privatization has had a very negative effect throughout the so-called “developing” world, particularly Africa, India and Latin, and South America. It has also impacted the “first world” as well. Here in Western Michigan, where we have the largest supplies of fresh water in the world, international corporations are trying to profit from our water resources. Citizen groups, such as the Sweetwater Alliance, have been resisting the Nestle corporation’s efforts to bottle and sell millions of gallons of Michigan water. Here in Grand Rapids, the local organization Clean Water Action works to protect our right to clean and affordable water.