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Water is Life

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Millions of people have lived without justice but not one without WATER.

The Earth is a water planet and largely why life is sustainable here versus other planets. In fact the planet Earth is 78% water and humans are 60% water. Of the 6 billion people on earth, 1.1 billion do not have access to safe, clean drinking water. Throughout most of history water, like air, has been considered a human birth right. As water has become more scarce due to environmental contamination, territorial conflicts, greed and corruption, an international water crisis has developed which literally threatens every living creature on Earth. As a result, water has rapidly become a precious commodity more valuable than oil or gold. The international water industry is now $400 billion a year in sales and the third largest in the world behind only oil and electricity. This year Americans will spend $40 billion on bottled water yet tap water has significantly more government regulation than bottled water.

Twenty five percent of bottled water is repackaged tap water sold at 900 times the price. The average cost of an ounce of bottled water is approximately 5 cents, 86% more than oil. It takes 2000 times more energy to create a liter of bottled water than a liter of tap water. In fact, the amount of oil required to put one bottle of water in your hand would fill one quarter of that same bottle. Oil is of course a valuable energy resource, which competes with many other clean and dirty alternatives and is subject to supply and demand pricing. Unlike oil, water has no such alternative and, like air, we can't live without it.

Similar to oil, the bottled water industry is controlled by a relatively small international "cartel", the lion's share of which is dominated by household brand names Coca Cola, PepsiCo and Nestle. All have a vested interest in securing water sources and all have a history of deceptive marketing and business practices. For example, Nestle (Poland Spring, Perrier, San Pellegrino, Calistoga, Ice Mountain, Arrowhead, Acqua Panna Ozark, Zephyrhills) is the world's leading bottled water company, and was sued by residents in Michigan, after they located a Poland Springs bottling plant, drilled numerous wells and dramatically diminished a neighborhoods well water. Coca Cola (Dasani, Glaceau, Smart Water, Spring! Natural Water) has a highly questionable track record when it comes to water farming and water pollution. PepsiCo (Aquafina, Propel Fitness Water, SoBe, Ethos Water) was forced to admit that Acquafina is nothing more than tap water and originates from a public water source.

Opposition to the bottled water industry is just beginning to gain momentum. In December 2008 the City of Toronto became the largest city in the world to pass a comprehensive policy banning bottled water in City buildings and aggressively reinvesting in the City's public water supply delivery system. Other major urban centers, like Seattle and New York are promoting their own tap water over bottled water. According to the Container Recycling Institute, just supplying Americans with plastic water bottles for one year consumes more than 47 million gallons of oil, enough to take 100,000 cars off the road and 1 billion pounds of carbon out of the atmosphere. Ninety percent of used water bottles are not recycled. In California alone, more than 1 billion plastic bottles end up in California's landfills each year, leaking toxic additives, such as phthalates, into the groundwater and taking 1,000 years to biodegrade.

Privatization of the water also remains an issue with dire consequences in the developing world. Suez, is one of the world's largest "privatizers" of water services and has created scenarios where poor people living in slums often pay 5-10 times more per liter of water than wealthy people living in the same city. In Bolivia, where nearly one out of every ten children will die before the age of five, most from illness related to a lack of clean drinking water, the government sold it's country's water rights to European conglomerate, Vivinedi. As a result poor villagers and small farmers have been prevented from using wells that they've used for generations for drinking water and irrigation. Serious issues are also arising in regions of the developed world including in the water-scarce Western United States where it's estimated that California could run out of water within 20 years.

Like the air we breathe, water was once a human birth right, not a commodity owned by big business and made available only to those able to afford the highest price. I'm a business person and believe strongly in the free market system but not at the expense of human life. There is something seriously wrong when PepsiCo, Coca Cola, Nestle, Vivendi, Suez and others are allowed to control domestic water supplies and ultimately dictate who lives or dies based upon how much they can pay for access to what was once OUR public water resource. Looking to the future, how much do you think international corporations will charge for scarce water or for that matter, the air we breathe, once they figure out how to bottle it?