The Pollution and Privatization of Water

The Pollution and Privatization of Water
Water is our most precious resource, something every human being needs to survive. Yet today over 1.2 billion people a day on average do not have access to this necessity. Even if they might have this access, the chances are good that the water is polluted with many contaminants. In the future, we will probably find that clean water will go to the highest bidder, and even more people will find themselves without easy access to clean water.Pollution of the world?s water resources began to take a scary turn as industrialization took hold on the European continent. We can see similar effects of what happened in the past if we look to attitudes in developing countries today. The idea that ?progress? must come first, and the environment has to take a back seat is a strong one in countries eager to improve their material standards of living. In the Western world, movements to clean polluted water systems usually slow in coming. The United States enacted a Clean Water Act in 1972, providing around 50 billion dollars to towns and cities in order to ?make 100% of the nation?s water safe for fishing and swimming.? However, only 2/3 of that goal has been met. As the undisputed leader in the world, the U.S. has seemingly done much less than necessary to keep water systems, and ultimately the environment clean, as can be seen with the latest rejection of the Kyoto Protocol.

Water Pollution

There are two types of water pollution, direct and indirect contamination (also known as point, and non-point contamination). Direct contamination includes pollutants released into a water system directly from factories, homes, refineries, etc. Indirect contamination occurs when contaminants enter the system from the atmosphere (car emissions, factory smoke, etc.) through rainwater, or through the ground (such as pesticides and fertilizers). Though pollutants themselves are harmful to the environment, they usually contain nutrients such as nitrates and phosphates. The addition of these nutrients into water systems disrupts the natural balance, and ultimately leads to overgrowth. This overgrowth can clog waterways, and prevents light from reaching deep into the water, killing off life which was sustained at a deeper level. Much of this type of pollution comes from fertilizers, sewage, and organic livestock waste. The creation of larger factory farms mean that highly increased levels of pollution enter a water system at a certain point, usually too much for a stream or river to handle, meaning quick destruction.
We also see pollution in different forms, such as water release from nuclear reactors and factories. Though the water is sometimes purified before leaving, the temperature of the water is sometimes significantly different from that of which it is being returned to. The difference in temperature does cause the death of aquatic life, and can sometimes effect plant life. One of the most visible effects of water pollution occurred with the Exxon Valdez oil tanker spill, which launched over 11 million gallons of oil onto Alaska?s coast. (see table below for more stats on oil pollution). The spill was a major one, but just one, as shown below, there are over 37 million gallons of oil sent into oceans every year! It is apparent that the protections and regulations used are failing. A concern for the future lies in the fact that water pollution does not usually remain in the country where it was produced. In light of this, it is necessary for the world to work together in order to maintain and upgrade water quality. However, with the descrepancies in economic wealth, it is possible that wars may be fought over water rights. At present, one of the hurdles between the Israeli and Palestinian people is that of water rights. Water pollution will remain as long as present systems are, which we rely on for living our lives. It will be necessary to modify water use, pollution disposal in order to secure our existence in this world for future generations.

Cause of oil pollution Amount of oil flowing into
the ocean per year
Big spills 37 million gallons
-?????????????????????????????????????????? Air pollution from cars and factories that is washed into
the ocean after the particles settle 92 million gallons
Routine maintenance of ships, in which oil is released
into the water 137 million gallons
-?????????????????????????????????????????? Oil runoff from land and industrial wastes 363 million gallons
-?????????????????????????????????????????? Spills and operational discharges that occur during
offshore drilling 15 million gallons
-?????????????????????????????????????????? Natural seeps that occur at the bottom of the ocean 62 million gallons
(courtesy of Ocean Planet, Smithsonian Institution)

Water Privatization

It may seem odd to group water pollution with water privatization, but the reality is as we contaminate what remains of our precious resource, we are letting our economic order infiltrate what is the most basic human necessity. The idea of water privatization has been tossed around for years, but recently had become a reality for some in 3rd world countries. Deregulation of electricity, cable and telephone services has had mixed reviews, as the telephone enterprise seems to have worked out, we see with the recent California energy crisis of summer 2001, deregulation can lead to massive problems for everyone. In Bolivia, water privatization was met with violence when within a week of it occurring, water prices in Cochabamba doubled. This future movement to water privatization which is promoted by the imf/World Bank will no doubt lead to an increase of water prices for the poorest in the world, while maintaining the status quo for those in the richest countries. Supporters of the programs believe that efficiency will be increased and at the same time will reduce the use of water by putting a higher price on it. It remains to be seen if the future will bring about a solution to this developing notion of water distribution. However, what is clear is that there is a movement to make water a resource which is owned by companies, and will no longer be in control of governments/the public.

The Pollution and Privatization of Water 9.5 of 10 on the basis of 938 Review.