Driftwood Canyon - photographed by David J. Lisle - copyright 210 David J. Lisle

The purpose of this essay is to show that water, an essential element for life, is not a commodity as defined by modern corporations. - September 7, 2016

It is prudent to start with some definitions:

  • com·mod·i·ty
  • noun
  • noun: commodity; plural noun: commodities
    • 1. a raw material or primary agricultural product that can be bought and sold, such as copper or coffee.
  • synonyms:
  • item, material, product, article, object;
  • import, export
  • "the prices of basic commodities have risen again"
  • a useful or valuable thing, such as water or time. (Internet, google search)
  • wa·ter
  • noun
  • noun: water; noun: the water
    • 1. a colorless, transparent, odorless, tasteless liquid that forms the seas, lakes, rivers, and rain and is the basis of the fluids of living organisms.

What Water Is

Water is a necessity of life, like air. Owning water is therefore perilous for others that do not own water. This essay will examine the current trend of private corporations owning vast quantities of water and either charging money or goods in exchange for it, or restricting availability of water for it's own purposes and refusing, prosecuting, and defending violently their right to water against those who do not have access.

This essay will examine the current trend of civic corporations to harness and sell water to corporations at a rate that differs significantly from the fee charged to civic residents who need it to drink and bathe. Such differences are inequitable in fact.

It is access to water that is the primary reason for many parts of the world and their indigenous populations being in a state of starvation or deprivation due to an ability to access any water. This essay will examine in brief as many of those kinds of problems, their causes and possible resolutions and the possible eventual rights to water and to air by corporate adventurism.

Corporate adventurism is defined by the status of corporations being established as persons that then claim rights and privileges that non-corporate persons (ordinary citizens of the planet) possibly have in similar or the same contexts. Corporate adventurism is further defined by their dominance of land areas, civic politics through donations, or intimidation of a population, fear, and even military force usually exercised through state governments to further their own 'for profit' ends. Corporate adventurism is not unlike state empire building and has even worse consequences for those living subsistence lives, which includes a majority of the population of this earth.

Because water is essential for life, all life, it should not be owned exclusively, but only in common. Like air, water is essential to human life and from that we can conclude that nature provides an adequate supply for all to use freely. I am not looking to seek the chemical composition of water and define it from that, simply put water is 2H2O in conventional chemistry nomenclature and not very useful in this discussion of its role in human life and the life of all other living things. The oceans are vast and contain the majority of Earths' water, but is not potable for humans.

Potability of water is an important factor, many wells and especially deep wells are contaminated with strong smelling minerals, or are extremely `hard' rendering them useless for washing and sometimes for cooking. Surface water, such as lakes and ponds are often the only reliable source of water for drinking, and even so they need to be continually refreshed to remain fully potable and nearly always boiled to kill any bacteria or other organisms that may cause ill health in humans and livestock. The end result is that much water is not suitable for more than irrigation and in some cases too salty for even that.

Water readily dissolves many substances, it is the universal solvent and is often the first thing used to try and remove or dissolve something unwanted, or something to be used in another process.

The expense of rendering water potable can be prohibitive and especially so in areas where the economy is subsistence and the means to clean water is above the ability or knowledge of local users. Large landowners also have fenced off or made inaccessible water on their property deeming it to be theirs alone and even perhaps redirecting outflow from riparian waters into cisterns and tanks thus avoiding consequences of other users polluting or using it.

What Water Does:

So important to humans is water that it is used in almost every process involved with human activity from nourishment to entertainment and personal cleaning. Substantially, individuals only use water for drinking, cooking, bathing, and household cleaning with a portion also for gardening or small agricultural activities.

That being said and actually requiring no proof it is prudent to note that theses activities while seemingly insignificant don't take into account Industrial use of water. The amount of water used by industry is quite out of proportion to the amount used by individuals.

Industry pays significantly lower rates per given quantity of water than do households and small holding where these activities are in whole or in part provided by taxation levied by civic authorities. The UN has something to say about these activities:

"The human right to water entitles everyone to sufficient, safe, acceptable, physically accessible and affordable water for personal and domestic uses", UN CESC - General Comment 15, para.2

When it is noted that industry pays significantly lower rates for water the comparison is ludicrous. A few cents per litre or even fractions of a cent for billions of gallons of water.

Water then is also part of the economic engine that drives the industrial complexes of the Western world, and significant as well in other countries not considered part of the West that have adopted Western style business models. i.e. Capitalism.

In Canada Nestle pays insignificant amounts for water compared to householder use. An Ontario judgement forced Nestle to reduce its uptake of water. However in British Columbia the same company is seeking water rights for fractions of what households pay. $2.25 per million litres. Once again Nestle has been thwarted by the involvement of the citizenship.

Other place in the world are not so fortunate. California is being depleted of groundwater by Nestle operations. Sacramento, India. And Nestle is not the only Western organization complicit in depleting water supplies.

Nestles Chairman, Peter Brabeck-Letmathe denies that people have a right to water, which is in direct conflict with the aforementioned UN human rights policy. But the bigger question remains as to why civic authorities are so willing to sell off their water at bargain rates and in such quantities that defy comprehension. So far the only rationale is the provision of employment; but it is quite possibly time to look to other means to provide employment without resorting to kowtowing to corporate greedy thinking.

In the long run the amount and kinds of brands that Nestle produces can fool a person into thinking it is not Nestle, but somewhere on that polluting, wasteful plastic bottle will be the bottler of origin.

Why and How Water impacts Human Life?

We are made up of a large percentage of water, another way to describe most life on earth would be to say "all life forms on earth are nothing more than bags of water," not the most romantic description, but for the purpose of this discussion it is exactly correct.

We have seen historically the impact that water polluted by microorganisms has on human life. Various plagues and other widespread infections have played a role in degrading the quality of human life. Clean water to drink is essential. 200-300 litres a day per person is used in most Western countries, much more in countries that depend on herding and agricultural subsistence. More modern problems impact water quality, the irresponsible spraying of herbicides and pesticides cause major problems to other life on the planet and also ultimately to humans. Additionally the dumping of vast amounts of industrial effluent into waterways and oceans also create ongoing problems for the rest of humanity. Dumping on land aggravates air quality as well as making once useful land useless.

There is a need for a definition here, Useful land:

The definition of useful here is any land that can bear any kind of life whether or not that land is of commercial or economic use.

Useful land is defined by industry as land that can be used to make a profit, so if the land cannot be used to make a profit it is deemed by such organizations as `useless.' So all land is initially useful and is made useless by the activities of industry.

People have the first right to use of land, not corporations, not nation states. This is the principal upon which Aboriginal land claims are made. The land is our heritage and there is no other heritage to obtain.

Water is now a political issue, and the fight will not be easy, the fight is tied to land use, air quality and human viability.


Wikipedia contributors, "Water," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, Water (accessed August 30, 2016).

Ecology Dictionary, `Riverine/Riparian', Riverine (accessed August 31, 2016)

Human Right to Water, `Resolution 64/92', Right to water (accessed September 17, 2016)