Year's Top Issues: Water

Access to clean water is one of the defining issues of the 21st century, and while the problem is global, much of the action is playing out at the community level.

Drought is only deepening in Australia and Ukraine. In China, shortages caused by drought and heavy use are profound — the Yellow River rarely reaches the sea anymore, and the Yangtze dropped to a 140-year low last January, according to reports.

Add pollution to the mix, and you have a burgeoning crisis for vulnerable populations in the developing world and beyond.

Advocates say market forces will effectively deliver clean water to those most in need; some tout the concept of “virtual water” as a means of facilitating water importing and exporting at the national scale.

Yet privatization and the water industry has met fierce opposition in communities worldwide, as activists demand access to water as a human right, not a business opportunity.

Toronto is one of a number of cities that has banned the use of bottled water; in California, the state took exception to a Nestle water bottling plant, while one small coastal community evicted an international conglomerate from its water system by threatening an eminent domain lawsuit.

Elsewhere, Mali, Uruguay and Bolivia are reverting to public water systems, while in France dozens of cities are taking similar steps at the local level.


“Bottled Water May Be Tapped out in Toronto”
Sept. 10, 2008

“California may Sue Nestle over Water Plan”
Aug. 6, 2008

“A Grassroots Water Grab in California”
Jul. 24, 2008

“Pumped up for Public Water”
Jul. 2, 2008

“Drought Persists Down Under”
May 8, 2008

“Virtual water and real thirst”
Apr. 23, 2008

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