Is Water A Human Right?

Film Recommendation

Blue Gold (2008)

Buying Up The Rights to Life

This documentary provides a strong reminder of the absolute importance of water. We know it’s essential to life, but who exactly owns it? The film does an excellent job of raising questions over the legality of the corporate ownership of water. Should private industry hold rights to water, and if so, what the rights of citizens and locals?

Undeniably, water has become big business. In so doing, it has come to exert equally great social and environmental pressures on world water supplies. Blue Gold explores just a sampling of these contentious issues.

"Dollar, dollar, bills y'all" - make it rain_gif.

Making It Rain For Corporations

According to The International Bottled Water Association (IBWA),

“In 2015 the total volume of bottled water consumed in the United States was 11.7 billion gallons, a 7.6% increase from 2014. That translates into an average of 36.3 gallons per person…

The IBWA goes on to say that, “consumers see bottled water as a healthy alternative to other packaged beverages. Consistent with this view, sales revenues for the U.S. bottled water market in 2015 was $14.2 billion in wholesale dollars, a 8.7% increase over the previous year.”

Bottled Water Companies 
Do Not Produce Water, 
They Produce Plastic Bottles.
Click the image for more on water ownership.

Big Numbers

These numbers are just from the USA alone! Globally, bottled water and corresponding water rights, take on a whole new dimension. The resulting clash between private industry and public interest is further compounded where countries with weaker governments institutions are more susceptible to foreign financial backers. In such places, governments are strongly influenced to give up the rights to this most precious resource. To the obvious detriment of those that live there.

To make matters worse, there’s the also the pollution to consider. So not only does the bottled water industry compromise local water supplies, it generates enormous amounts of waste (see Understanding Water Consumption) and carbon emissions. Of course this ultimately It pits the industry against the public interest.

One glaring example of this is in Flint, Michigan. As has been reported, “while Flint drinks poison, NestlĂ© is pumping 200 gallons of fresh water out of Michigan every minute,” (

Keanu Reeves meme, "What if bottled water was just expensive tap water?"
Click the meme for more on letting go of disposable water bottles.

Ain’t Saying They’s A Gold Digger, But

Unfortunately, corporate greed remains a very real and recurring theme. Indeed the film offers numerous examples where local governments are in fact encouraged to sell/export, despite the significant need of the native population. On occasions where locals residents are unhappy with this arrangement, armed forces are sent in to protect corporate rights.

It’s disturbing to say the least. However, hopefully these examples will help encourage viewers to reflect upon the issue of water rights. At the very least it should promote discussion over who can and should own the rights to this precious resource.


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