By Rebel Fagin
There’s gold in them thar hills, blue gold that is. From the Sacramento River to the Jordan River the drought is good news for disaster capitalists. These people believe in market fundamentalism. Under this belief system water is a commodity and not a right. To these corporations: Vivendi, Suez, Veolia, Terrier, Nestles, Wal Mart, Starbucks, Goldcorp, Pacific Rim, and Bechtel, water is about profit. They call it the “Blue Gold” rush. The threat to us comes in three forms:
1) The privatization of municipal water/sewer systems. In the U.S. this has led to higher rates, poorer service, and lost jobs. Some communities have paid corporations to just go away. In South Africa privatization has resulted in pre-paid water meters. Outraged citizens have destroyed the meters and liberated their water.
2) The taking of water from aquifers and wild rivers to sell to larger cities. The Alliance for Democracy is working to stop these corporate takeovers.
3) Bottled water. Corporations have successfully conned some of us into believing that unregulated water in plastic bottles is better for us than regulated municipal water. They are now taking over local springs and even using city tap water to sell back to us. In Sacramento the folks at Occupy Sacramento and 99 Rise Sacramento organized the “Crunch Nestles Alliance” to fight back. According to the Crunch Nestles Alliance, Nestles is taking up to 80 million gallons of water a year from the Sacramento aquifer while paying residential, not commercial, rates. They sell the same water back as Poland Spring Water.
Lola Ellis of 99 Rise Sacramento said, “Nestlé’s bottling of water in Sacramento is unsustainable in the current state of drought. We really don’t know how much water they are taking from the aquifer and that is a scary thing.”
Nestles says it takes up to 50 million gallons a year, but provided no documentation. Wal Mart is also taking Sacramento water for their one-time use bottled water.
Pacific Rim and other Canadian mining corporations use toxic chemicals like cyanide in open-pit mining, often contaminating land and watersheds throughout indigenous lands in Latin America and Canada. The IMF and World Bank encouraged big mining back in the 1990’s. With the passage of CAFTA, GATT, and other global trade treaties, corporate “rights” to extract have been strengthened. When the President of El Salvador suspended Pacific Rim’s mining license in 2009, Pacific Rim and U.S. Commerce Groups used the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes to sue El Salvador for $400 million.
Platinex of Toronto set up a drilling camp on native lands in violation of the indigenous community’s 2005 moratorium on drilling. Using a combination of alliance building, savvy media outreach, direct action occupations, legal suits, and an 850-mile walk to Toronto, they halted this drilling while building up so much support that by 2012 the Canadian government had bought out Platinex, De Beers, and God’s Lake Resource’s claims to gold mines.
It’s not always about money. Some water wars are about colonialism. In Gaza, 1.7 million Palestinians are forced to drink water that fails to meet W.H.O. minimum standards for human consumption. Gaza has no perennial streams and little rainfall. A United Nations report stated, “the aquifer could become unstable as early as 2016, with damages irreversible by 2020.” Thanks to the Egyptian-Israeli blockade, materials for well repairs are unavailable. Lack of reliable electricity has put 85% of agricultural wells out of commission. The Israeli state company, Mekorot, sells Gaza 4.2 million cubic meters of water annually. This is the bulk of their water. This commonly shared resource is allocated unequally. Israelis get 100 – 230 liters per person per day. Palestinians receive 70 – 90 liters per person per day. The W.H.O. recommends a minimum of 100 liters per person per day.
Water wars are on. How will we survive? I, for one, will seek survival through community, solidarity, and taking action. What about you?
Sources: Corporations & Democracy 4/14/15, Democracy Now 5/12/15, thealliancefordemocracy.org, indybay.org, sott.net, Censored 2015 © Roth & Huff
Rebel Fagin writes for the Sonoma County Peace Press & dailycensored.com