Water: A Human Right, A Public Trust, A Shared Commons

The Council of Canadians are leaders in campaigns to protect Canada’s freshwater sources. Their campaign work, and that of the local Comox Valley Chapter, focuses on recognizing water as a human right, a public trust and shared commons. The commons consists of gifts of nature such as fresh water, oceans, air and wildlife.

Water as a human right is to be shared, carefully managed, and protected from privatization and industrialization.

Water as a public trust puts community water interests ahead of private water users. It requires water be allocated for the needs of citizens and ecosystems first, not those with industrial or private projects.

As a commons, water is no one’s property; it is not a commodity to be sold or a source for personal profit. It is not to be taken, put in plastic bottles and sold to others at exorbitant prices.

The more that private interests control the water supply, the less we, as a community, have a say about our public water. We are currently witnessing how local groups and communities are fighting to protect or regain control of their local surface and ground water, including community-drinking watersheds.

The bottled water industry is one of the most polluting on earth. Only one in six plastic water bottles is recycled. Instead they lie stagnant in landfills and end up as trash in our rivers, streams and oceans. They’re tossed on land, littering roadsides, beaches, parks and forests.

The plastic water bottle is made up of chemicals and fossil fuels that leach into the soil and groundwater. Imagine a water bottle filled a quarter of the way up with oil. That’s about how much oil is needed to produce and transport each and every bottle.

Fresh water is not an infinite resource and we cannot continue to view it as such.

“Groundwater resources are finite. Wasting our limited groundwater on such uses as bottled water is a recipe for disaster. We must safeguard groundwater reserves for our communities and future generations,” states Maude Barlow Honorary Chair of the Council of Canadians. “Bottling water is draining communities here in Canada and around the world.”

At the pace we’re moving with the privatization and industrialization of water, the changes in climate, drought and over extraction, many communities will not have enough fresh water to meet their future needs.