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January 14, 2021     Post 121
Who Owns Water?

Who Owns Water?

Many people,this writer among them, believe certain things including health care and water should not part of the profit making capitalist system. This is why in the lake shore town of Sterling, some of us are uneasy about sharing our municipal ground water supply with a corporation called Sterling Spring Water. (For more information visit sterling water stewards website sterlingwaterstewards.com .

Obviously water and health care are related as the residents of Flint Michigan and Atlanta Georgia have learned to their intense regret. And the private for profit model does not do a great job with either as society as a whole is impacted by cutting corners and laying off workers to keep those stock prices high for the CEO options packages.

In the nineteenth century city water supplies were largely run by for profit operations. After quite a few cholera epidemics, many cities took over the water supply operations. More recently there has been a push to again privatize municipal water. Multinational corporations now control the water supplies of millions of people.

Water for profit has led to huge physical suffering and tax payer supported bailouts even as pressure to privatize everything in the U.S. continues.(See recent Colorado River story in Jan 4 NY Times for more on the trend). Because the “science”(sic) of economics can’t put a price on water, the whole concept of selling it for profit is highly questionable. However, just because we can’t price it, doesn’t mean we should give it away to companies who want to make money off it.

Mr. Market is eager to trade pollution derivatives and use arbitrage to make money off of water rights. With a bit of market manipulation “investors” can make even more money. In the end don’t worry, technology will save us. And we can sell you a 3000 dollar set up to purify your polluted lake water for drinking after Line 9 that runs along Lake Ontario’s north shore breaks and dumps a million gallons of toxic tar sands crude into your drinking water.

Is it any wonder people are calling for the rights of Mother Earth to be alongside those of corporations? Corporations achieved “Personhood” and legal rights associated with it through a series of legal maneuvers including a Supreme Court Decision in 1886. Now, as a recent NY Times article on the 20% short fall of the Colorado River’s water shows, pressure to profit from water is intense.

Who owns water? This life giving molecule is constantly on the go, moving slowly underground, rapidly through the air, melting, sublimating, evaporating and condensing. It’s not like coal. Continued profit making off the intricate inter related ecosystems of the world bound together by water will not end well.

Closer to home as Sterling contemplates the potential jobs and taxes generated by a possible water bottling operation that could suck the village aquifer dry, consider our alternative to groundwater. It’s downstream of four other lakes inhabited by numerous sewage systems and industries, and dozens of superfund sites some capped by clay covers of unknown durability and dubious integrity. The history of the most polluted Great Lake does not exactly inspire great confidence in the Capitalist system’s ability to safeguard and distribute water in an equitable way.
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