12 October 2009

Helping local communities thrive

To thrive, a community needs reliable, affordable access to clean water and healthy food. Soil and water contamination from pesticide and fertilizer runoff, which compromises the quality of water available for community use, can also undermine and/or destroy habitats in such a way that even water quantity is threatened (particularly in Europe and North America, where rain-fed agricultural practices are much rarer than in "developing" areas.) These two most basic community resources are inextricably linked.

WaterWe have passed the point where over a billion people do not have access to safe drinking water, while over two billion people do not have adequate water to address basic sanitation needs (according to the World Health Organization/UNICEF report, “Meeting the MDG drinking water and sanitation target: the urban and rural challenge of the decade,” Global Water Supply and Sanitation Assessment, [World Health Organization and United Nations Children’s Fund, 2006].)

Competing Trends

Privatizing U.S. Water

In the United States and elsewhere a number of local government now rely on "privatized" water systems.  The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy [IATP] has produced a map and a report on the impact of water privatization in the U.S.

Water "Remunicipalization"

Nonetheless, some communities have insisted on returning water and sewage treatment services to public management -- "remunicipalization" -- forcing water multinationals to pull services out of communities world-wide.
The Alliance for Water Efficiency, in cooperation with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency [EPA] has put the Water Efficiency Resource Library on the web. Water is emerging in the collective awareness of the public and policy-makers as perhaps the most critical natural resource on the planet: What use is improving energy efficiency or health care, after all, to the billions that have inadequate access to water for drinking, agriculture, and/or basic hygiene?

Within the U.S., the Great Lakes system is perhaps the most vital watershed - it is certainly the most obvious.

Minnesota's Senior U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar and U.S. Representative James Oberstar both recently addressed the the 5th Annual Great Lakes Restoration Conference, stressing the importance of protecting and restoring the Great Lakes. Such attention and initiatives are urgently needed for virtually every fresh-water watershed in the world.


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