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Global Water Crisis

Discussion in 'Issues Around the World' started by Steve, Dec 31, 2002.

  1. Steve

    Steve Is that it, then?

    This has been a problem for quite some time, and is only projected to get worse. Water is, of course, not optional and, if all you have to drink is contaminated, then drink you must.

    It is rare, now, for such a large region to have water supplies so severely contaminated. I believe the situation will become worse, particularly in developing countries where rampant industrial growth will probably overburden any existing pollution controls and where environmental degradation, such as loss of wetlands and deforestation of slopes, will create flooding situations, loss of topsoil, reduced ability of the environment to naturally cleanse water supplies.

    In addition to contamination, existing water supplies are being drawn down at alarming levels. In China, current water usage exceeds the capacity for replenishment. Ancient aquifers are being depleted at unsustainable rates in China, Inda, the mid-Western U.S., and some Middle Eastern countries. These aquifers take thousands of years to recharge.

    The largest use of water is agricultural irrigation. Yet, thousands of miles of irrigation channels run through hot, arid regions, uncovered and subject to loss through evaporation. Simply covering these channels could save billions of cubic feet of water per year. Alternative tilling methods and soil- and climate-appropriate crops can further reduce the strain on water supplies. Use of these methods is sporadic, however.

    I'm beginning to believe that the next world war will be fought not over energy resources, but over water resources.
  2. Advocat

    Advocat Viral Memes a Speciality Staff Member

    In some ways the fight has already begun. Under NAFTA regulations, once a natural resource has been sold, it must continue to be sold (ie, Canada can't suddenly decided not to ship wood to the US... US buyers can sue under NAFTA to force the sale).

    There are presently US companies and one or two states who are attempting to sue to force the sale of Canadian water... which sales then become institutionalized and basically outside the controls of Canada

    Background and cases:

    Provisions of the FTAA that Threaten Water

    NAFTA Chapter 3 establishes the goods that are subject to the agreements obligations. These include waters, including natural or artificial waters and aerated waters. The NAFTA adds an explanatory note that ordinary natural water of all kinds (other than sea water) is included. In 1993, then U.S. Trade Representative Mickey Kantor said in a letter to an U.S. environmental group, When water is traded as a good, all provisions of the agreement [NAFTA] governing trade in goods apply.

    National Treatment is a standard trade provision that guarantees that countries do not discriminate in favor of their domestic producers and against foreign producers. This means that if a locality provides any portion of its water systems through a private company, they can not have a preference for a local service provider who may have a greater commitment to the area and may be easier for the local community to oversee. Furthermore, once a permit is granted to a domestic company to export water, the corporations of all the other FTAA countries would have the same access rights to the commercial use of that water. For example, if a Bolivian company were granted the right to export Bolivian water, U.S. multinational corporations would then have the right to help themselves to as much Bolivian water as they wished.

    Chapter 11, Investor State. This is a provision of the NAFTA favored by the U.S. government, among others, for inclusion in the FTAA. This provision gives investors (usually corporations) the right to sue a foreign government directly if they believe that their rights have been violated under the NAFTA. As a result of this provision, there have been a flurry of investor-state suits in North America under the NAFTA challenging environmental, health and safety legislation in the three NAFTA signatory countries.

    If this investor-state provision is included in the FTAA, it could apply to water in at least two ways. If any FTAA country, state or province allows only domestic companies to export water, corporations in the other countries would have the right to financial compensation for discrimination. Further, the very act of a government attempt to ban bulk water exports automatically makes water a commercially tradable commodity, triggering the FTAA. The very same law that excluded them would trigger foreign investors FTAA rights, and they could demand financial compensation for lost opportunities.

    In addition, Chapter 11 allows foreign corporations to sue a country if a government implements legislation that expropriates the companys future profits. For example, if a country privatized its water services and hired a foreign corporation to provide the service and then passed laws requiring improved environmental protections or worker safety, the corporation could argue that the laws were an expropriation of its profits and therefore illegal under FTAA rules.

    Several other provisions of the NAFTA and the WTO, which are likely to be included in the FTAA, will dramatically impact the provision of water resources.

    Article 315 of the NAFTA, "proportional sharing. Under NAFTA Articles 315 and 309, no country can reduce or restrict the export of a resource once the trade has been established. Nor can the government place an export tax or charge more to the consumers of another NAFTA country than they charge domestically. Exports of water would have to be guaranteed to the level they had acquired over the preceding 36 months; the more water exported, the more water required to be exported. Even if new evidence were found that massive movements of water were harmful to the environment, these requirements would remain in place.

    Article XI of the GATT at the WTO specifically prohibits the use of export controls for any purposes and eliminates quantitative restrictions on imports and exports. This means that quotas or bans on the export of water imposed for environmental purposes could be challenged as a form of protectionism.

    Production Process Methods. The WTO forces nations to forfeit their capacity to discriminate against imports on the basis of their consumption or production practices. Article 1, Most Favored Nation, and Article III, National Treatment, require all WTO countries to treat like products exactly the same for the purposes of trade whether or not they were produced under ecologically sound conditions. Even though commercial trade in water can be destructive to water sheds, the WTO could prevent countries from restricting that trade.

    Least Trade Restrictive. The WTO requires that any law that a country may write to protect its water would also have to be the least trade restrictive law imaginable (as interpreted by a panel of trade lawyers). This vague language has already been the downfall of several environmental protection and public health laws and promises more of the same if included in the FTAA.

    Services. The FTAA Services Agreement is even more sweeping than the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) at the WTO. The fundamental purpose of the services agreements are to constrain all levels of government in their delivery of services and to facilitate access to government contracts by transnational corporations in a multitude of areas, including water services. The FTAA Services Agreement, says the Negotiating Group, should have "universal coverage of all service sectors." Governments are granted the right to "regulate" these services, but only in ways compatible with the "disciplines established in the context of the FTAA agreement." The Services Agreement will apply to all measures affecting trade in services taken by governmental authorities at all levels of government. As well, it is intended to apply to non-governmental institutions acting under powers conferred to them by governments."

    Governments used to be unanimous in the belief that basic human services such as water, health care and education should not be included in trade agreements because these were essential components of citizenship. However, the NAFTA and the GATS began the process of eroding these basic human rights, which the FTAA will take to a whole new level. The framework of the FTAA Services Agreement represents sweeping new authorities of a trade agreement to overrule government regulation and grants huge new powers to service corporations under an expanded FTAA. For instance, if national treatment rights in services are included in the FTAA, all public services at all levels of government would be forced to open up for competition from foreign for-profit service corporations. This agreement would disallow any government or sub-national government from preferential funding to domestic service providers in services such as sewer and water services.
  3. ditch

    ditch Downunder Member

    The problem here in Oz is severe and a lot of damge has been done to the environment by too much land clearing causing salinity which is now a major problem. Our major river systems are drying up due to over use. An attempt to make this country look like a lush green Europe has been the cause of much damage. The planting of cotton, a water hungry crop, has not helped.

    A reaforestation program is underway with a target to plant several million trees in the next few years. We have a fertile coastal strip here where the great majority of the poplation lives. Beyond that there are areas that suffer severely during droughts, such as now. The centre of the country is desert. The debate here at the moment is whether drought affected farmers should receive large govt handouts or should they cop it on the chin when times are tough accepting that they practice their trade in a land subject to the drought cycle.

    Water treaties and rights are fundamental to many peoples suvival in other parts of the world already. Wars will be fought over water and that is not a new thing. But the huge population increases taking place across the globe make ths issue of water rights and supply a big big concern. The misuse of existing supplies needs to be addressed. On a local level, the community here is discouraged from hosing down driveways, kids are taught at school to not leave the tap running when they brush thier teeth, to take short showers, only water the garden early or late in the day when evaporation is lowest. Still we insist on having a green lawn and pour water onto them unnecessarily.

    A responsible approach to the use of current water supplies is not a bad starting point to working on the problem.
  4. jamming

    jamming Banned

    Depends, alot on availablity
  5. ditch

    ditch Downunder Member

  6. Stiofan

    Stiofan Master Po

    The feds are due to cut California's share of the Colorado River by 15% tomorrow. Our ability to flood our deserts and become the breadbasket of the nation, along with unchecked population growth and immigration is finally catching up with us. The northern California Klamath River basin was devastated last year when the feds shut the water off up there.

    Story <a href="http://www.upi.com/view.cfm?StoryID=20021231-102257-4865r">here.</a>
  7. Coot

    Coot Passed Away January 7, 2010

    I guess that asking for proof of citizenship for the purchase of water is going to be deemed unconstitutional in two years when supplies run out. Of course the hit will probably be a bit worse than predicted as we will have to insure that those oases in the Mojave Desert stay stocked.

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