"Water promises to be to the 21st century what oil was to the 20th century:
the precious commodity that determines the wealth of nations."
(Fortune magazine, May 2001)
The world's supply of freshwater is running out. Already one person in five has no access to safe drinking water, and as a result water-borne diseases kill one child every eight seconds, reported BBC in 2003.
According to several international studies, scarce and unclean water supplies are posing one of the major public health problems in much of the world today. Hence, one of the UN's millennium development goals is to reduce by half the proportion of people without access to safe drinking water by 2015.
Some maintain that if this goal is to be achieved within the next decade, significant infrastructure investments will be needed. They argue that the access to freshwater is not a “human right”, but a “human need”. Hence, they put forward the argument for privatization and international water marketing as some of the ways for improving the distribution of freshwater problem in the world.
However, as many others point out, if water is to be considered merely as a human need, and not a human right, one can foresee that only those with means will be able to afford freshwater. They predict that privatizing water supplies by huge multinational corporations will lead to higher prices, leaving millions of poor people around the globe without access to safe drinking water. Examples of such practices are already there, they say, pointing towards Bolivia or Philippines.
Furthermore, they forecast that with many of the world's freshwater rivers crossing more than one country, the disagreements over the rights to freshwater supplies might develop into political conflicts in the most pressured regions, such as for example the Zambezi River in Africa, or the rivers that lead into the Aral Sea in Central Asia. Indeed, big governmental projects such as dams designed to provide water and power to certain regions in the world, have already caused much environmental damage and disagreement about the management of water supplies in local areas, e.g. the Narmada River in India.