by Tammy Hart

Over 70 percent of the earth’s surface is covered by water; however, 97.5 percent of that is salt water, leaving only 2.5 percent available as freshwater.

According to the United Nations, 31 countries are now facing water scarcity and 1 billion people lack access to clean drinking water. Water consumption is doubling every 20 years; simultaneously, water sources are continually being polluted, exhausted, and diverted by corporate interests ranging from industrial agriculture and manufacturing to electricity production and mining.

Companies are looking at ways of mass-transporting bulk water by diversion and super-tanker. Some companies are trying to develop technology to load huge sealed bags of fresh water that can be towed across the ocean for sale.

With treaties such as the North American Free Trade Agreement in place, the U.S. government has the authority to give up control over domestic water supplies in exchange for money. With privatization of water, the public can lose rights to information about the water quality in their community. For example, in 1998 the water supply of Sydney , Australia , was found to have high levels of parasites; however, the public was not informed of the problem immediately upon discovery because it was considered confidential information. Another case occurred in 1999 in Ontario , where the Canadian federal government implemented the “Common Sense” Revolution, which included massive cuts to the environment budget, the privatization of water-testing labs, the deregulation of water-protection infrastructure, and massive lay-offs of trained water-testing experts. The Revolution was designed to save $5.8 billion, reduce provincial income taxes by 30% and wipe out the deficit. In 2000 after the policy was put into place, at least 7 people from the community of Walkerton , Ontario , died from drinking the water. Though the private testing company knew the water was contaminated with E. Coli, it failed to report the information to authorities, since the data was confidential intellectual property belonging to the client only.

Over the past ten years, three corporations have started to take control of water supplies. A report by the Centers International Consortium of Investigative Journals shows that these companies have expanded into nearly every region in the world. Although private companies currently only run about five percent of the world’s waterworks, experts warn that if current trends persist, by the year 2025 approximately seventy-five to eight-five percent of the freshwater supply will be privately owned, and the demand for fresh water will increase by approximately fifty-six percent more than what is currently available.

Advocates of privatized water-supply systems contend that governments are not able to fund water utilities; therefore private sector funds are needed to support them. Large funding corporations such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund Co. have made possible the rapid growth of the privatization of the world’s water service and the increased price of water for millions.