Ecumenical Water Network

The EWN is a network of churches and Christian organizations promoting people's access to water around the world

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Week 3: Commodification of water

In Psalm 24 we read: “The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it; for he has founded it on the seas, and established it on the rivers.” Despite this, we are used to “appropriating” the earth and its resources, including water.

The privatization and commercialization of water takes on many forms. Water supply systems being taken over by private companies is but one manifestation. We also see that the resource itself is turned into a commodity and a private good. For example, in “Week 1: Land and water” we looked at the acquisition of large areas of land and the resulting control over water resources exercised by a wealthy minority. Finally, water is widely used, polluted, and wasted to generate shareholder profits in agriculture and industry.

Private goods are by definition “exclusive” – others can be excluded from their use. Some promote this kind of “privatization” as a way to prevent the waste and pollution of water. Yet the struggles of communities around the world tell a different story of exclusion.

Biblical reflection: The Earth is the Lord’s

Shantha Ready Alonso, WSCF student vice chair, and Linwood Blizzard II, WSCF North America Region treasurer, look at justice and care for creation in the context of the privatization and commercialization of water. Read more...

Background resources:

Find out more about the concept of Global Public Goods, the Cochabamba ‘water wars’, and the bottled water industry. Read more...

What you can do:

Reflect on how each of us sometimes "profits" from the privatization of water at the expense of others and inform others about the “virtual” consumption of water. Read more...