The future of water is precarious.
Isn’t water a human right? After all, every human being needs water to survive, because the weight of the human body is about 60% water. The human body needs water in all cells, organs and tissues to regulate body temperature and maintain bodily functions.
So why is water under threat as a commodity bought and sold by corporations and investment companies?
A bill introduced simultaneously this week in the US Congress and Senate – HR7182: Future of Water Act of 2022 – would prevent Wall Street from speculating on vital water resources. This would protect water from current and projected scarcity under fossil fuel intensified drought conditions. The bill foresees how excessive concentration in water markets could become a trigger for physical water hoarding and price increases, with those affected ranging from farmers to families and others.
The bill would circumvent profit motives and “prioritize human needs over corporate profits,” according to one of the bill’s sponsors.
Water scarcity affects two billion people worldwide. It’s a tremendous profit opportunity, unfortunately.
Water scarcity and profit opportunities
Water scarcity occurs when demand from all sectors, including the environment, cannot be fully met. Yes, in some sectors, the lack of water is considered a social construction, that is to say a product of wealth, expectations and customary behaviors, according to the UN. It can also – and above all – result from a change in supply patterns and stem from the climate crisis.
In 2010, the United Nations General Assembly explicitly recognized the human right to water and sanitation and recognized that these are essential to the realization of all human rights. The resolution called on States and international organizations to provide financial resources, contribute to capacity building and technology transfer to help countries – especially developing countries – provide safe drinking water and sanitation for all, clean, accessible and affordable.
Two million people in the United States currently lack access to running water and basic plumbing.
Water as a commodity
In 2020, water began to be traded on Wall Street, with market participants able to bet on or against a possible water shortage.
“Climate change, droughts, population growth and pollution are likely to make water scarcity and pricing issues a hot topic for years to come,” said Deane Dray, managing director and analyst at RBC Capital. Markets. Bloomberg Sunday.
Indigenous rights advocate and journalist Ruth H. Hopkins noted that in addition to rising global temperatures and the prevalence of drought, water supplies are being negatively affected by fossil fuel projects that “continue to ‘poison”.
Water joins gold, oil and other commodities traded on Wall Street, revealing a new shortage.
Water is life, we said. As fresh water becomes more scarce, extractive industries continue to poison it with wasteful projects and leaky pipes. We warned you. https://t.co/PnAZ7PZQwu
— Ruth H. Hopkins (Red Road Woman) (@Ruth_Hopkins) December 7, 2020
Bicameral legislation from Congressional Democrats in 2022 would amend the Commodity Exchange Act to affirm that water is a human right. It must be run in the public interest, say sponsors Rep. Ro Khanna (CA) and Senator Elizabeth Warren (MA). Trading in water rights on futures markets has been called “dystopian” by 130 civil society groups, who have demanded that federal regulators shut down the Chicago Mercantile Exchange’s water futures market.
“All Americans should agree: Clean, safe water is one of our most basic human rights,” Khanna said in a statement. “Big corporations and investors should not be allowed to use an essential public resource for their benefit. We must unite to protect our water.
The Water Futures Act, which Khanna says would “prioritize human needs over corporate profits,” comes in response to worrying ecological and economic developments.
Warren added that “Wall Street should not be allowed to use this vital resource to profit at the expense of hard-working Americans.” The recently unveiled bill, she said, would “protect water from Wall Street speculation and ensure that one of our most essential resources is not auctioned off to the highest bidder.”
Musks’ efforts to improve water quality in Flint, Michigan
In 2014, the City of Flint transferred its residential water supply from the Detroit Water and Sewer Department to the Flint River. The water was not adequately treated, which resulted in lead leaching into the water. It took years, but now students in Flint, Michigan can drink clean water from school water fountains, thanks to a charitable effort by the Musk family. A donation of $480,350 announced in October 2018 was used to pay for the water filtration systems.
In February 2022, students in Flint were able to drink from drinking fountains for the first time since 2016 after hydration systems, funded by the Elon Musk Foundation, were unveiled at schools in the district. A total of 136 hydration stations in 12 buildings in Flint schools now have fountains that filter out lead, chlorine, bacteria and have a chiller to keep water cold, michigan live reported.
Laura Sullivan, a professor of mechanical engineering at Kettering, has been working on installing these hydration systems since 2016. Sullivan said the hydration system filters were not only tested by Kettering researchers, but also once by Arc Environmental, an environmental consultant to Flint Schools.
“One of the issues that residents raised early on is that the corrosive water from the river has not only damaged service lines and water lines; it also damaged the plumbing in the houses,” said Benjamin Pauli, a social scientist at Flint’s Kettering University who has been involved in clean water activism efforts. Wired. “And not just pipes, but also appliances and also appliances that use water. That would include washing machines, dishwashers and water heaters.
Obviously, the filters are just a starting point for the pervasive water quality problem that Flint and other communities are experiencing. Getting more contractors in the field to replace service lines is an important step after filters, as is further investment in the community.
The Musk Foundation was established in 2002 by Elon Musk with his brother Kimbal. He included $423,600 for the Flint School District to purchase Chromebooks for middle school students as they move into the former Flint Northern High School as part of a high school restructuring plan.
(Note: CleanTechnica doesn’t know if the Musks have invested in the water future or not.)
Several House Democrats co-sponsored the Water Futures Act, including Rep. Jamaal Bowman (NY), Cori Bush (MO), André Carson (IN), Chuy García (IL), Jahana Hayes (CT) , Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC), Mondaire Jones (NY), Brenda Lawrence (MI), Barbara Lee (CA), Andy Levin (MI), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY), Ilhan Omar (MN), Ayanna Pressley (MA ), Jan Schakowsky (IL), Rashida Tlaib (MI) and Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ). Senate co-sponsors include Ed Markey (MA), Jeff Merkley (OR), Bernie Sanders (VT) and Sheldon Whitehouse (RI).
Common dreams notes that the bill has been endorsed by more than 260 progressive organizations, including Public Citizen, the Indigenous Environmental Network and the National Family Farm Coalition.
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