Water crisis

Every drop matters, author states

DRYING OUT<br>The world is running out of drinking water, Canadian writer Maude Barlow says, and the impacts will be devastating.

The world is running out of drinking water, Canadian writer Maude Barlow says, and the impacts will be devastating.

Photo By Ginger McGuire

The world is running out of clean water.

“We have polluted it … or we have moved it,” international water-rights activist Maude Barlow said Tuesday evening (Feb. 19) at a presentation about the world’s water crisis. “Use every drop of water twice.”

The Canadian author of Blue Covenant: The Global Water Crisis and the Coming Battle for the Right to Water spoke to nearly 80 people at the Chico Grange Hall as part of a national book tour sponsored by Food & Water Watch, with this stop co-sponsored by the Butte Environmental Council and the Sacramento River Preservation Trust.

“Water is the most urgent, human [and] ecological crisis,” Barlow said, indicating that as many as two-thirds of the world’s people won’t have access to an adequate water supply by 2025 if existing practices and conditions continue.

She doesn’t believe water should be a commodity; rather, it should be available and conserved for future use. She is continually worried about the growing conflicts among nations over water rights and exportation, as 2 billion people currently live in regions of the world with water shortages.

According to the Food & Water Watch Web site, the World Health Organization estimates 1.7 billion people do not have access to clean water and 2.3 billion people suffer from water-borne diseases yearly. The Web site states, “Water-borne diseases occur due to the inability to provide clean water, but increasingly due to the unaffordable pricing of water.”

As people continue to pollute surface water, Barlow said, we are simultaneously laying a massive water pipeline grid around the world—taking water away from natural wetlands and forests and shipping it to cities, for example, or agricultural communities that need extra water.

But sometimes taking an oasis and shipping it to the desert only creates two deserts, she said.

As we pave over our wetlands, we no longer have the plants necessary for the hydrologic cycle, she explained. With the mass movement of water by pipeline, “we are actually creating climate change with our water displacement.”

This was Barlow’s first visit to Chico, and after driving through the area and its orchards, she said, “You really do have a piece of heaven here…. It’s worth saving.”

Barlow, who serves on the boards of Food & Water Watch and the International Forum on Globalization, was a nominee on the list for the “1000 Women for the Nobel Peace Prize 2005” and is the recipient of the “2005/2006 Lannan Cultural Freedom Fellowship” and the “2005 Right Livelihood Award.”

She is the national chairwoman of The Council of Canadians, Canada’s largest citizens’ advocacy organization, and is the author or co-author of 16 books, including Blue Gold: The Fight to Stop Corporate Theft of the World’s Water (with Tony Clarke).

One of her greatest concerns is the influence corporations are exerting on water availability. One example, she said, is desalination, which converts seawater into drinking water.

Proponents of desalination state the technology will create a reliable, long-term water supply, while decreasing pressure on other overdrawn water sources. However, Barlow notes that it is not only expensive and could exacerbate global warming with the massive amount of energy needed, but also provides a new opportunity for private corporations to own and sell water.

She offered a dystopian vision if we don’t change course: “Desalination plants will ring the world’s oceans, many of them run by nuclear power. Corporate nanotechnology will clean up sewage water and sell it back to us at a huge profit. The rich will drink only bottled water … while the poor die in increasing numbers.”

While Barlow said individual and local efforts are important, the water crisis is global, so a global shift is crucial. “Every single thing we do has to be measured in terms of water usage.”