Is Water – H2O – A Human Right?

It certainly has an interesting implication. If it is not a human right, then should fresh water be available to all without restrictions? It becomes a murkier question when it is taken from the context of an interview that took place between Guardian News and Nestle’s Chairman Peter Brabek. On the one hand, Brabek clearly understands the fundamentals of global water:

“He points, for example, to the fact that we are using more water, rather than less, to produce our food and energy.”

The relationship of water to virtually everything that is produced cannot be underestimated. In an earlier post: The Interdependency of Energy and Water, I wrote about the close relationship between energy production and water. There is NO question that freshwater is valuable.

Consider why Brabek might consider water to be a far more valuable commodity that deserves better management and allocation.

“We’re talking about running out of oil, well it happens that we have 120 years of proven oil reserves, we have 240 years of proven gas reserves, we have 550 years of proven coal reserves, we have thousands of years of proven Uranium reserves and we are running out of water today.”

Now why, would an executive’s statement been so divisive? From Keithpp’s blog:

“Nestlé is the world’s biggest bottler of water. Brabeck claims – correctly – that water is the most important raw material in the world. However he then goes on to say that privatisation is the best way to ensure fair distribution. He claims that the idea that water is a human right comes from “extremist” NGOs. Water is a foodstuff like any other, and should have a market value.”

For me, the rub is the issue of corporate profitability. If companies really want to get serious about making notable advances in the better utilization and availability of water, they should consider the benefits that would accrue from advancing the state of research for wastewater reuse.

Agriculture is by far, the leading user – and abuser – of freshwater. We all need food. There are too many misuses of water for crop irrigation. It is in the area of agriculture where water is treated as if it was a free commodity. That cannot continue.

Brabek can make a far greater and more lasting corporate global impact by “di”vesting profits into better water stewardship rather than “in”vesting in greater profit.

“Brabeck warns businesses not to hide behind a philanthropic agenda but to build water stewardship into the heart of their business strategies.”

Let’s raise the bar on corporate water stewardship even if it is at the expense of shareholder profits. CEOs who are now compensated on the profitability of their company would demonstrate the delicate balance that is needed between “talking the talk” and “walking the walk”.

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