Duane invited me to guest post on an environmental topic, and since I had already been mulling over the question of privatization of water, I figured I’d do some quick research. Since this is an on-the-fly post and we are both exhausted after more than 22 hours worth of Blogathon, I am not going to do my usual super awesome in-depth research, and I’m just going to point you out to a quick reference page I found.
The notion that water is a commodity kind of bugs me because I don’t think we can put an actual price on natural resources. Of course, there is the theory of payment for environmental services, but I am not going to go there right now because I am exhausted and my brain has completely shutdown. But if you think about it, one of the most contentious issues in Canada is that of water export and bottled water.
This page aggregates a number of sources on the total volume of bottled water consumption in the world. However, I wanted to do a bit more research and went to the World Health Organization’s site. The whole debate that is happening in Vancouver centers on whether non-bottled water would be safe enough. Here is what I found, on the WHO (the world’s authority on health) website.
In applying the WHO Guidelines to bottled waters, certain factors may be more readily controlled than in piped distribution systems and stricter standards may, therefore, be preferred in order to reduce overall population exposure. This has, for example, been argued for the case of lead. Similarly, when flexibility exists regarding the source of the water, stricter standards for certain naturally-occurring substances of health concern, such as arsenic and fluoride, may be more readily achieved than in piped distribution systems.
Contrary to this, some substances may prove more difficult to manage in bottled than tap water. This is generally because bottled water is stored for longer periods and at higher temperatures than water distributed in piped distribution systems. Control of materials used in containers and closures for bottled waters is, therefore, of special concern.[WHO Website]
If we really were to ban the sale of bottled water, the municipality of Vancouver would (a) have to prove that tap water is safe enough (I don’t think that would be THAT difficult) and (b) get into big trouble with large corporations who make selling bottled water their business (because, really, who wants to lose business?). And trust me, even I wouldn’t want to get into that battle (and I am a combative man).
In India, for example, water becomes more than a natural resource, a political resource and a source of inter-state and inter-regional conflict. Can you imagine what would happen in Canada if we actually put a full price on water? Do you think we should ban bottled water in Vancouver?
Raul’s blog Random Thoughts of a Student of the Environment contains an assortment of stuff, including (of course) analysis of environmental issues