Some politicians think that the answer is privatization -- selling public water to private interests. That would certainly seem to get the politicians off the hook for decades of ignoring the problems of urban sprawl, eroding infrastructure and lack of planning. But what happens to the consumer when the private corporation that owns your water supply decides that it will be more profitable to sell your water to another buyer? Or that it's not in the interest of their stockholders to invest in improving the infrastructure in your area?
Will you allow your elected representatives to pave the way for the day when you can't afford water?
New to Being Dry, the South Struggles to Adapt - New York Times
ATLANTA, Oct. 22 — For more than five months, the lake that provides drinking water to almost five million people here has been draining away in a withering drought. Sandy beaches have expanded into flats of orange mud. Tree stumps not seen in half a century have resurfaced. Scientists have warned of impending disaster.
And life, for the most part, has gone on just as before.
The response to the worst drought on record in the Southeast has unfolded in ultra-slow motion. All summer, more than a year after the drought began, fountains sprayed and football fields were watered, prisoners got two showers a day and Coca-Cola’s bottling plants chugged along at full strength. On an 81-degree day this month, an outdoor theme park began to manufacture what was intended to be a 1.2-million-gallon mountain of snow.
By September, with the lake forecast to dip into the dregs of its storage capacity in less than four months, the state imposed a ban on outdoor water use.
Gov. Sonny Perdue of Georgia declared October “Take a Shorter Shower Month.” And Saturday, Mr. Perdue declared a state of emergency for more than half the state and asked for federal assistance, though the state has not yet restricted indoor water use or cut back on major commercial and industrial users, a step that could cause a significant loss of jobs.
These last-minute measures belie a history of inaction in Georgia and across the South when it comes to managing and conserving water, even in the face of rapid growth. Between 1990 and 2000, water use in Georgia increased 30 percent. But the state has not yet come up with an estimate of how much water is available during periods of normal rainfall, much less a plan to handle the worst-case event — dry faucets.
“We have made it clear to the planners and executive management of this state for years that we may very well be on the verge of a systemwide emergency,” said Mark Crisp, a water expert in the Atlanta office of the engineering firm C. H. Guernsey.
But a sense of urgency has been slow to take hold. Last year, a bill died in the Georgia Legislature that would have required that low-flow water devices be installed in older houses before they are resold. Most golf courses are classified as “agricultural.” Water permits are still approved first come first served.
And Georgia is not at the back of the pack. Alabama, where severe drought is even more widespread, is even further behind in its planning.
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A Water Privatization Overview
courtesy of Public Citizen
Rather than taking the dramatic action necessary to protect precious water resources, governments around the world are retreating from their responsibilities. Instead of acting decisively, they are bending to the will of giant transnational corporations that are poised to profit from the shortage of water. Fortune magazine has predicted that "water is the oil of the 21 century" and corporations are rushing to invest in the water business.
Giant water, energy, food, and shipping companies have plans to buy water rights, privatize publicly owned water systems, promote bottled water, and sell "bulk" water by transporting it from water rich areas to markets desperate for more water. At the same time, to ensure maximum profits, these companies are lobbying to weaken water quality standards, and pushing for tradeagreements that hand over the U.S. water resources to foreign corporations.
Right here in the United States, where some regions are already suffering from serious water shortages, corporations from Vivendi to Nestle are poised to make a profit on water. Some corporate interests even want to sell bulk water from the Great Lakes, the world's largest freshwater system. The Great Lakes have suffered from pollution, lost two-thirds of their extensive wetlands and experienced a catastrophic loss of biological diversity. Only 3% of the shorelines are suitable for swimming.
Water resources in Wisconsin and Michigan have been targeted by giant bottled water companies like Perrier. Selling bottled water is one of the most successful revenue generating schemes for private corporations. As drinking water has been degraded, the bottled water industry is promoting its expensive product as the solution.
Unfortunately, bottled water is not adequately regulated, and tap water is actually subject to more rigorous testing and safety standards. A 1999 study of bottled water found that bottled water is no safer than tap wader, and sometimes is less safe. Meanwhile, companies like Coca-Cola are selling purified tap water as a healthy option, and they believe that in the long run selling water will be more profitable than selling Coke.
No Truce in Tr-State Water War
Worried About the Drought? Wait Until Next Summer