June 25, 2004
Public Citizen Urges Congress to Adopt ‘Water for the World’ Resolution
Statement of Wenonah Hauter, Director of Public Citizen’s Water for All Campaign
In light of the growing shortage of clean water in the developing world and the international trend toward the privatization of water systems, Public Citizen applauds U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) and 29 co-sponsors of the Water for the World Resolution, which was introduced late Thursday and calls for water to be regarded as a public good and fundamental human right.
It is essential that Congress support this measure. More than a billion of the world’s inhabitants lack adequate access to safe drinking water, and 2.5 billion have no proper sanitation. Thousands, mostly children, die each day from preventable waterborne diseases. Because of increasing pollution and a rate of global water consumption that doubles every 20 years, by 2025, 48 nations will face severe water shortages, according to the World Health Organization.
The Water for the World Resolution affirms that water is a global public good and should not be treated as a private commodity. It recognizes that government policies should ensure that all individuals have equitable access to water to meet basic human needs and that no one is cut off from water due to economic constraints.
Unfortunately, these principles have not always been upheld. In Detroit, Mich., more than 50,000 people had their water shut off during the past two years because they couldn’t pay. In South Africa, pre-paid meters force poor residents in townships to provide payment before they can drink. Unable to pay, families use contaminated water sources, such as polluted rivers, and as a result, waterborne illnesses are common. In fact, pre-paid meters were linked to a massive cholera outbreak in KwaZulu-Natal in 2000.
In the United States, there exists a funding gap for water and wastewater systems, which is leading governments to turn systems over to private companies. By some estimates, it will cost $20 billion annually for the next 20 years to build, repair and maintain water systems in this country. Around the world, millions of dollars in World Bank and International Monetary Fund loans prop up water privatization schemes that are corrupt and do little to help those who need access to clean water. But giving control to private companies is not wise; private companies care foremost about profits, not about repairing the infrastructure or keeping water rates affordable.
There is an international consensus – enshrined in the United Nation’s General Comment on the right to water and in the UN Millennium Development Goals – that water is a fundamental human right, and that access to water can mean the difference between sickness and health, cyclical poverty and economic development. Congress should support the Water for the World Resolution.
To view the resolution, click here.
Note: Schakowsky is hosting a congressional briefing on the resolution from 2 p.m.-3:30 p.m. on June 29 in the Cannon Office Building, Room 121.