Water privatization, in principle, is great. The idea is that corporations have the financial resources that governments do not to provide the people with clean water. In addition, they can afford the big upfront costs of creating a water system. However, when put into practice privatization fails. A water system requires huge and ongoing infrastructure investments. Corporations have cut corners on these which leads to a shortage of access. Privatization, in fact, has a 34 percent failure rate. Because the system costs so many people often are forced to overpay for their water.
The film Flow documented people in African who could not afford the privatized water. Instead, they drank from the river which resulted in people dying from waterborne illnesses. The companies, when questioned, insisted that the people could afford the water. In addition, the companies also cemented old wells and prevented the local people from using their old, and free methods of accessing clean fresh water. The only upside to privatization is that it is easy to solve; don’t allow privatization to happen. Poor nations will need aid though, to help ensure their people have clean fresh water, but this is part of a continuing effort, as there are many charities focused solely on this issue.
Many conflicts are being fought over water or have been fought over water. For example, a UN report states that the conflict in Darfur really stems from the fact that the Sahara is growing a mile a year. There is also evidence that a drought in Syria was part of the reason the people attempted to overthrow the government. Pakistan and India are in conflict over Kashmir. The headwaters of the Indus and Kabul river start in Kashmir which provides most of Pakistan’s water which is needed to grow food as well as drink. Of the four wars between them, the two were fought over Kashmir which currently belongs to India. China is in conflicts with Bangladesh and India over the Brahmaputra. Palestine and Israel are in conflict over aquifers. There is hope that these conflicts will lessen though, as the UN declared “the right to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation as a human right…” (Moss).
The most significant threat to fresh water is the growing rate of contamination. The other previously mentioned problems are solved with time. Once certain contaminates get into the water we have no way to remove them. In class we discussed how the rising sea levels are causing an encroachment on water tables, turning them brackish, but there are other sources of huge contamination. For example, agriculture, urban runoff, fracking, tar sands, and industrial dumping are all huge sources of water contamination. This issue is the least promising to me because once water is contaminated it is gone for good. As stated by Collins, already half of the freshwater is polluted.