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Is Water a Basic Human Right?

Canadian water-rights activist Maude Barlow thinks so, and explains why in this editorial from the San Francisco Chronicle. Barlow also figures prominently in the eye-opening and infuriating documentary Flow, which was released last year and is now available on DVD. She was recently named to be senior adviser on water to the president of the U.N. General Assembly.

Barlow writes:

In a world running out of clean, accessible water, the question of who decides its allocation is crucial. Is access to water a human right or just a need? Is water a common good like air or a commodity like Coca-Cola? Who is being given the right or the power to turn on or off the tap – the people, governments or the invisible hand of the market? Who sets the price of water for a poor district in Manila or La Paz – the locally elected water board or the CEO of a big water corporation?

Later in the article, she says:

There is a huge role for the private sector in developing innovative technologies to save and clean water as well. I am particularly excited about innovations that apply biological science to technology – harnessing the power and processes of nature to transform toxic and industrial waste into clean water and even fuel – and the commitment of some businesses of reducing their water use.

A story I wrote for Inc. last year discusses some of these innovative technologies — and indeed, the technologies that are biology-based were for me, too, some of the most interesting.

Barlow has a new book out called Blue Covenant, The Global Water Crisis and the Coming Battle For the Right to Water.

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