In an alarming trend reminiscent of the oil industry, water is fast becoming the "blue gold" of the modern world. This transition has severe consequences, endangering the water security of individuals and families worldwide. The financialization of water, where large corporations and individuals like Bill Gates acquire vast tracts of land rich in water resources to sell the precious resource, poses a grave threat to the universal right to water access as proclaimed by the United Nations.
The UN's assertion that water is a fundamental human right clashes with the interests of profit-driven entities. Despite the United Nations General Assembly acknowledging the right of every individual to have access to sufficient water for personal and domestic use, corporations and even government officials often contest this stance. In a startling revelation, Nestle led a campaign at the World Water Forum in 2000 to oppose classifying access to water as a universal right. Unfortunately, corporate interests prevailed, leading to the reclassification of water as a mere "need." This shift allowed water to be commoditized, exploited, and captured by major corporations with little regard for local communities.
The implications of the financialization of water are dire, affecting the world's water security and stability. The United Nations projects that by 2025, 1.8 billion people will confront acute water shortages, and two-thirds of the global population could experience strained water conditions. This scarcity will increase the demand for clean water, further accelerating the financialization of this essential resource.
The concept of financializing water is relatively new, with profound and far-reaching repercussions. The World Bank has played a significant role in facilitating the privatization of public services, including water sources and rights, beginning in 1978. The Chicago Stock Exchange, a prominent commodity exchange, further escalated this phenomenon by allowing commercial transactions involving water futures. This development turned the price of water into a financial asset, ultimately leading to the emergence of publicly traded investment funds specializing in water.
Corporate giants like Vanguard and BlackRock are actively involved in controlling water and water-related activities on a global scale. Even in the United States, companies such as Water Asset Management and Vidler Water Company have amassed substantial acreage, endangering water availability in areas like Arizona.
Nestle's aggressive pursuit of water resources for profit is particularly concerning. Former Nestle CEO Peter Brabeck-Letmathe controversially expressed that water should be considered a marketable grocery product rather than a human right. The company's practices, such as draining groundwater to produce bottled water, exemplify the stark reality of water financialization.
This trend directly impacts rural communities, farmlands, and indigenous populations. Communities suffer as water sources are depleted, leading to sinking land surfaces, dry creeks, and damaged underground water reservoirs. Water shortages driven by corporate interests disproportionately affect developing countries, rendering regions uninhabitable while corporations profit from selling bottled water.
Even in developed nations like the United States, rural farmland is being acquired to sell water to urban developers. These deals threaten farming communities and underscore the urgency of safeguarding water resources.
The financialization of water raises ethical, environmental, and social concerns. Access to clean water should not be subject to market dynamics and corporate interests. It is crucial to acknowledge the intrinsic value of water as a fundamental human right rather than allowing it to be commodified. Without a shift in approach, the looming water crisis will impact millions, emphasizing the need to prioritize water security over financial gain.