Barlow, Maude. Blue Covenant: The global water crisis and the coming battle for the right to water

Black Inc

Eco-fatigue. Some say we’re a little past caring about this stuff: climate change, overpopulation, our drying continent. Decades of ecological neglect to be addressed. So why bother with water politics?

Well, here’s one reason, bang in Blue Covenant’s second paragraph: “More children are killed by dirty water than by war, malaria, HIV/AIDS and traffic accidents combined.”

Or how about the fact that Kenya’s Lake Naivasha, and its resident hippopotami population (Africa’s largest), will die within ten years if it continues to be drained to grow roses for Europe?

Or consider thatTibetis the source of water for nearly half of all the humans on the planet, which may provide another perspective onChina’s controlling urges.

We face three water crises: dwindling supplies, lack of equal access, and (increasingly) corporate control. And public opinions are being changed one water bottle at a time. If we are cool with buying bottled water that, in many instances, is inferior to that which we can pour free from a tap, we’ll be a lot more comfortable with paying a large company to provide that which falls from the skies. Or will we?

Maude Barlow (author of Blue Gold, published in 50 countries) wants to reclaim water for the Earth. In Blue Covenant, she analyses the water crisis’s causes and traces the history of what she calls a global campaign to enforce a private model of water delivery. Multinational water utility companies, in league with the World Bank and United Nations, bully poor nations and commodify water, creating a global water cartel. They’re partnering local governments and academia, seeking ways to grow brave new water technologies, from nanotechnology to desalination.

Barlow’s hope for the future of the world’s water lies with “all the water warriors”, to whom she’s dedicated this book. She seeks a future water covenant and hopes the world will acknowledge the right to water for all.

For the reader whose plastic bottle seems half-empty, this book may merely induce a blue funk. But another reader will cheer Barlow’s optimism, uniting their hopes with the global grassroots water warriors (perhaps even replacing their Che T-shirt with an image of Bolivian president Evo Morales). And yet another reader may be inspired to buy fat share parcels in water technology corporations. Such are the ways of our dry old world.