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Water, a Part of the Commons

By Mary White

Air, earth, sunlight and water are the basic essentials of life on our planet. Since all life on earth depends on them they are our most precious resources. All of these vital resources need to be protected for the future, not only of our species but also for all species on earth. Having looked in our current film series at the protection of earth and seeds for agriculture, ConcordCAN! now focuses on water with the showing of the acclaimed film Thirst on Friday, November 16th at the Trinitarian Congregational Church at 7:30 pm (doors open at 7:00). Mary White is a Concord resident, a member of the ConcordCAN! Steering Group, and an active member of Greater Boston Move to Amend.

Water is an issue of great importance as we are in the midst of a global water crisis. Less than 1% of all water on the earth is potable and that is becoming even scarcer as glaciers disappear and our rivers, watersheds and aquifers are polluted from mountaintop removal, agricultural, pharmaceutical and human wastes. Groundwater is being withdrawn from America’s aquifers faster than the rate of recharge. Already 28 of our states are in water crisis. California, a major supplier of our food during the winter, is predicted to run out of water in 15 years.

In spite of the water crisis, corporations that have defined water as “the oil of the 21 century” are buying up the next big money maker for industry water resources at an unprecedented rate. Water stocks are the hottest stocks on the market. This industry didn’t exist when any of us older than 40 were born. It is now the third largest industry in the world only behind electricity and oil. And bottled water is just one part of this industry. Companies are also getting 20 to 100 year contracts to manage the water services of entire countries in some cases and that of cities and towns in others. The World Bank has even stipulated the privatization of water services for third world countries as a requirement for getting a loan. Here in Massachusetts to date 12 cities and towns have signed contracts with United Water, a subsidiary of the huge French water company Suez to take over some or all of their water services. Contracts in other Massachusetts towns with Veolia, the other huge French water company, have been reversed after strong opposition from local residents due to poor service, pollution and higher prices from the private company. What should Concord do to protect ownership of our water resources?

What’s the difference between publicly owned water and corporate control of this vital resource? Publicly owned water, like ours here in Concord, is equally shared among all residents with an emphasis on affordability, conservation, purity and wetlands protection. The needs of all of nature are considered. Corporately owned water is a profit-making commodity sold for whatever price the market will bear. Conservation, affordability and the needs of nature are not top considerations.

Is water part of a shared “commons” - areas of life considered the common heritage of humanity and nature for the benefit of all? Or is it a commodity to be bought, sold, and traded in a global marketplace? The film, “Thirst” poses this question. A lively, facilitated discussion will follow the screening with contributions from local officials and water experts. We hope to see you there.

Mary White is a Concord resident, a member of the ConcordCAN! Steering Group, and an active member of Greater Boston Move to Amend.