Water Is Where Everything Intersects –

Water Is Where Everything Intersects – Water in the Global Commons

Saturday, 12 May 2012 10:13 By Beverly Bell, Other Worlds| “Birthing Justice” Series

Water in the Global Commons(Photo: Mona Caron)In case after case around the world, water is being turned into a good for sale and for profit. Driven by a different vision and by economic necessity, a global counter-trend is growing to assure that household water be free or cheap, accessible, and safe, and that the earth’s water be kept pure and flowing. Marcela Olivera is a part of this movement. In 2000, she played a key role in organizing the massive protests in Cochabamba when residents of the city forced the Bechtel Corporation to give up control of the municipal water system, thereby restoring water as a human right for all instead of as a source of corporate income. This victory has been repeated elsewhere in Bolivia and around the world.


Marcela Olivera Cochabamba, Bolivia

There have been a series of policies implemented in Bolivia intended to privatize our natural resources. One of these directly impacts people’s everyday lives: it’s the move to privatize water by giving contracts to multinational corporations Water in the Global Commons(Photo: Marcela Olivera)to manage the municipal water supply and other sources of water. In Bolivia, there was a huge public outcry against this in 2000 and 2005 and, in the end, we were able to reverse the policy.

Now that’s the official, romanticized version of what happened, but nobody sees what’s happened since then. The struggle over who controls water is ongoing.

No one seems to pick up on how closely water issues are related to other urgent things that are now happening in Bolivia. Water is the one issue where everything intersects; it crosses over into political issues and economic issues in every country. In the struggle over water, people have also been fighting to have their voices heard and to better their living conditions. I think it’s really important that we understand that. Even the fact that Evo Morales is president now is really a result of the water war that broke out in 2000.

What we’re fighting for is effective, participatory control by the people over our social resources of water, health and education, as an Water in the Global Commons(Photo: Marcela Olivera)alternative to private control. This is going on all over Latin America.

We’re not searching for one solution, a single model of how to do things. I don’t believe there is a single solution to our problems. Our realities are all so diverse that it would be impossible to say, “This will work for everybody.” There are a lot of possible solutions out there. What’s going to be really important now, in the midst of our fights to control our own resources, is to connect with people on a human level. I think that’s where we have to start, with the human side of things and then, from there, to move on to bigger things, bridging the distances between us – not just the physical ones, but gaps in technology, communication, and sometimes even language.

One thing that we’re taking away from globalization is that it’s not just about the economic policies that are being imposed on us. It’s also about bringing us into contact with one another. Water in the Global Commons(Photo: Noah Friedman)We’re building alliances among ourselves that respect those differences and the diversity of experiences. That’s the great thing about it. One of the connections that’s happening is between women. The group I work with, Red VIDA [Inter-American Network of Vigilance for the Defense and Right to Water], is run by women. In fact, it’s a Latin America-wide water rights network of unions, non-governmental organizations, and grassroots groups, but women are the driving force. If you look at the outreach committee, it’s all women; we’re from El Salvador, Uruguay, Mexico, Bolivia, Brazil, and the US. The name says it all: the word ‘network’ is feminine in Spanish.

I believe women are organizers by nature, because we’re very sensitive and because we have the ability to show what we’re feeling. But women are still marginalized; there’s a kind of invisibility around the work that women do on water issues. For example, I notice that the organizing work is mainly done by women, but then the one who always stands up in front of the meeting to explain how everything was organized is a man.

I think it’s fantastic that women have stepped up and are leading the way in the fight over water rights. In our continent, at least, the face of the movement is the face of a woman.

To learn more about Marcela Olivera’s water rights network, Red VIDA, please see www.laredvida.org (Spanish language only).

Interview translated by Ocetelo Baena.

Inspired? Here are a few suggestions for getting involved!

  • Corporate Accountability International has a webpage overflowing with ways to challenge corporate control of water by supporting local water rights and fighting the privatization of our water sources (www. stopcorporateabuse.org/water-campaign).
  • Fight for clean public water so that residents can drink the free water that should be their right instead of having to buy it. Online, check out Water Justice (www.waterjustice.org) and The Rights to Water and Sanitation’s “Ways to Influence” webpage (www.righttowater.info/ways-to-influence). The Food and Water Watch “Take Back the Tap” curriculum teaches young people about the need for clean and affordable water and shows them how to advocate for it (www.foodandwaterwatch.org/water/take-back-the-tap/curriculum).
  • Help preserve public infrastructure and services in your community. Stop attempts to privatize them by raising your voice in opposition to cutbacks to public services like art and physical education school programs, public transit, community gardens, and libraries.
  • Use what can be shared in common instead of bought, like books at the library. Some libraries have great video and music selections, too. 
  • Consider Creative Commons licenses rather than copyrights for your writing, photography, and other creative ventures. A Creative Commons license facilitates sharing information and material using the “some rights reserved” instead of the “all rights reserved” approach. Learn how to license your work online (www.creativecommons.org).
  • Use Open Source software and support the developers who share their work with the world. Source Forge’s website shows you how (www.sourceforge.net).

And check out the following resources and organizations:

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

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Showing 16 comments

    • Unsanitorial

      Things are not so great in the USA as concerns tapwater. Many municipalities have adopted high rates to cover fraudulent investments and profits demanded by privatizers. Fracking threatens water quality but regulation remains slack because of cheap natural gas. Charlotte, NC host of the 2012 Democratic National Convention has a water system compromised by coal slag at Mountain Island Lake on the Catawba which also serves other nearby towns. The River Keeper has tested and found mercury, lead and other heavy metals as well as PCBs and other complex toxins. Holding ponds of generation wastes are not even lined with plastic. How can Duke Energy claim to be the hub of an energy economy when it’s standards remain rooted in the 19th Century? Not only has NC embarrassed the DNC by outlawing same sex unions but it invites them to drink effluent at their September convention in Banktown. Part of the ceremony will occur in Bank of America stadium. Bof A finances more outmoded polluting energy than any other institution. It is a nest of payday lending too which produces hopeless debt peonage. Obama and the DNC made an abysmal choice when they picked Charlotte. NC is a worse anti-labor state than Mississippi or Texas. Democrats have encouraged environmental irresponsibility and injustice by such actions.

    • Guest

      I was shocked to learn how much water nuclear power plants use!

      One MILLION gallons per MINUTE is used by one type!!

      And there are 450 nuclear energy plants around the world!

      Another type of reactor like the one in California by the Pacific Ocean uses 88,000 gallons of seawater per MINUTE.

      All that water used for nuclear energy which only provides 9% of our energy in the U.S.

      That doesn’t even address how much water is POLLUTED by nuclear energy!

      A lot of good, selfless women are trying to get the word out about nuclear energy:

      >>> Christina Consolo — http://endthelie.com/2012/05/1…

      >>> Libbe HaLevy — www dot nuclearhotseat dot com

      >>> Donna Gilmore — www sanonofresafety dot org

      Just to name a few.

    • Namaimo

      If true, those are shocking statistics, Guest. May you be very, very wrong.

    • Sal3

      Good points, and great reasons to launch a massive, energetic work projects to implement the newer, safer, thorium reactor designs with virtually NO risk of radiation contamination. They produce NO plutonium.

  • Cmt Kathryn S

    I would prefer we use solar and wind energy, between the two there is more than enough of both to supply the worlds energy needs, and neither of those, if harnessed correctly, have any toxic residual or toxic waste.

    • Tremblingdave

      Haven’t done the research on this but on the surface it already looks highly suspect.

    • Tremblingdave

      It’s the women that will pull humanity out from hell, death and fascism this time – if we can just let them take over from the imbecile men without blowing the planet up in a temper tantrum…

    • Cordley Coit

      Water is life. We need to say no and an absolute no to privatization of our water. The commons must prevail for humanity to survive. This is not a debating point, the knife is at our throat.

    • Richard_Raznikov

      Thank you for an encouraging piece. The corporate campaign to take over the world’s water supply is one of the most dangerous political issues of our time and is not getting sufficient attention in the U.S. We desperately need to increase education and alert people to how and why this matters to them. For some in-depth information and further details, check out: http://lookingglass.blog.co.uk…

    • UR

      Did you know there is RADIATION in the drinking water in the U.S. from Japan’s nuclear meltdowns?


  • Cmt Kathryn S

    When the tsunami hit Japan and the nuclear plant leaked, it was only a matter of time for the radiation fall-out to hit America…not only the drinking water, but the produce and such all along the west coast and who knows how far east…

  • Beija_Flor

    I always appreciate articles that have actionable links to participate in the change that we seek.
    Water will be THE issue in the coming decades, no doubt about it.

  • Jweston

    We in Florida are experiencing a horrific drop in our aquafirs. All the lake levels are dropping at alarming rates and many lakes have dried up completely. We have the largest constellation of pure springs on the planet in N. Florida and they are being severely polluted and depleted by corporations and agribusinesses. Why isn’t this front page news?? We MUST stop this madness. Time to protest en mass before we literally die of thirst.

  • Sal3

    An excellent summary of the issues and suggestions for meaningful action. This is truly a universal problem for us now, with grave implications for the future if citizens of all countries take control of it NOW.

  • Namaimo

    Clean water is everything.

    Clean water is everything.

    Clean water is everything.

    Clean water is everything.

    Without it we all die.

  • Bruce Liles


    A song about water pollution.



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