Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Should water be a commodity or a human right?

As the Great Lakes Compact works its way towards President Bush's desk, Congressman Bart Stupak (D-MI) has been getting a lot of press lately for opposing the compact.

Stupak is concerned with water being defined as a commodity. Language in the current compact allows water to be exported in containers no larger than 5.7 gallons.

While the current language protects large water withdrawals, the fear is that current U.S. free trade agreements could strike down this arbitrary limit to the amount of water that can be taken from the Great Lakes if water is seen as a commodity.

The bigger controversy worldwide is over whether water should be considered a commodity and opened up to the free market, or is a human right that everyone deserves access to. In other words, who delivers the water and should they be able to profit from it?

The Economist has a debate going on right now over the following proposal: "Water, as a scarce resource, should be priced according to its market value."

The debate is between market advocate Steve J. Hoffmann, Managing Director of WaterTech Capital and co-founder of Palisades Water Index Associates and water rights advocate Vandana Shiva, Director of the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Natural Resource Policy.

Steve J. Hoffmann's opening statement.

Vandana Shiva's opening statement.

Participate in the debate.

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