Thursday, November 03, 2005

Water

The ancient Greek lyric poet Pindar wrote, “The noblest of the elements is water.” Water is essential to human life for nourishment and sanitation. We humans have taken water for granted, and contaminated many water supplies – and we are beginning to learn what that will cost us. The water wars will be even uglier than the oil wars.

A new coalition, the NH Water Table, sponsored a conference called “Protecting New Hampshire’s Water” last month in Manchester. The keynote speaker was Maude Barlow, who co-wrote the book, “Blue Gold: The Fight to Stop the Corporate Theft of the World’s Water.” Ms. Barlow is from Canada, and is an expert on globalization, and the burgeoning world water crisis. It was well worth the long drive and the day’s investment to attend this conference. Small skirmishes in the water wars have already begun in our state – with the ongoing fight over the US Springs bottling plant in Nottingham, the fight about the Castle Springs bottling operation in Moultonborough, and of course the Poland Springs bottling operation in Fryeburg, ME. NH is fortunate in having a goodly supply of clean water, but we must act quickly to protect it.

The world is running out of fresh water. There are already countries in water crisis, including 22 African countries, and two-thirds of northern China. India and China have destroyed (by pollution) over 70 percent of their surface water. There is talk of moving the Chinese capital city, because of water – Beijing has serious water problems. Florida and the western US states are facing serious water problems. Barlow predicts that two-thirds of the world will have water shortages by 2025.

The large groundwater withdrawals for water bottling sales are exacerbating the problem.

Bottled water sales have skyrocketed in the last decade. Bottled water is being marketed as being superior to tap water, even though what’s in that bottle may be tap water sold to consumers as “fresh from a mountain spring” at a thousand times the cost of tap water. The bottled water industry is almost entirely unregulated, unlike municipal water supplies, where the water quality is monitored constantly. The idea is to create a suspicion of publicly owned water suppliers, and encourage the belief that bottled water is better and safer. A generation of kids is growing up with the belief that water is something you buy in a plastic bottle at the store. The bottled water companies are making obscene profits and creating obscene amounts of garbage. Every day over 30 million plastic water bottles are discarded. Only 1 in 10 makes it to recycling, the rest go into the landfill – where the chemicals in the plastic break down and contaminate the groundwater.....and the cycle continues.

The Poland Spring water bottling operation in Fryeburg has been a controversial topic now for some time. Fryeburg recently enacted a temporary ban on issuing permits for large scale groundwater extractions. It’s a smart move – given that most towns haven’t factored water extraction into their planning processes or town ordinances. That 6 month moratorium will give the town a chance to study the subject, and reflect seriously on water and the future. The towns on the NH side of the border should be watching this issue, and planning in their own communities.

Poland Spring is owned by the Nestle Corporation, a company with a long, disgusting record of violating human rights around the world. Nestle earns over $4 billion a year selling baby formula. They aggressively market their bottle feeding formulas as superior to breast milk in third world countries. Often they give out free samples to new mothers in the hospital. The mothers leave the hospital, with their own milk dried up, and are now forced to buy the formula and mix it with water, and in many cases that water supply is contaminated. A recent independent audit of Nestlé’s conduct in Pakistan found 3 violations of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) code for marketing breast milk substitutes. They found 2 examples of Nestle delegates offering financial or material inducements to a health professional, which is prohibited by the WHO. Nestle also owns Perrier, and San Pellegrino, and a number of smaller US water bottling companies.

Castle Springs Bottled Water Company was a small, locally owned operation in Moultonborough. Two years ago, it was purchased by Crystal Geyser Roxanne, a California firm that put 2 new boreholes deep into the aquifer, and is currently bottling 3 million gallons of water a month. Castle Springs had been granted a special exception to operate in a rural-residential-agricultural zone. Crystal Geyser Roxanne has increased the truck traffic five-fold, since they took over. The residents of Moultonborough are extremely concerned about the massive water withdrawals and the increase in truck activity. Another area of concern is for the potential contamination. The large scale water withdrawals can contaminate the water source.

Something else for towns and states to consider is that trade agreements like NAFTA and CAFTA provide foreign countries the opportunity to sue if we create “barriers to trade.” In other words, if a town attempts to pull out of a water deal with a CAFTA country, they can sue for the loss of their profits. Our NH Congressional delegation all voted for CAFTA, by the way. Welcome to the wonderful world of globalization.

Water – we need to act now to protect it. The Alliance for Democracy (www. thealliancefordemocracy.org/water) has a wealth of information at their site. The NH group Save Our Groundwater (www.saveourgroundwater) is an excellent resource. Join the NH Water Table coalition, at www.nhwatertable.org.You can also order the documentary “Thirst” to learn about communities all over the world who are resisting the privatization of their water, and water services. It’s available at www.bullfrogfilms.com, and is discounted to community organizations.

“We never know the worth of water till the well is dry.” Thomas Fuller

5 comments:

Carpet Cleaning Dallas said...
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Anonymous said...

Hi Susan
Some columans I like and some are, well not what I would like. But fair, open, with a wide view both left and right I understand an appreciate. Just so many do not hear us real backbone americans. I am not sure you have found us yet, but then the others haven't either.
Karl

rug cleaning said...
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Paul Adams said...
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susanb said...

Thanks, Karl, I appreciate you taking the time to stop by and comment.

Susan