While the demand for water is on the rise, the supply is shrinking, due to water-intensive agriculture, population growth, industrial pollution, breakneck development and other ecological threats that are depleting freshwater supplies. More than one billion people lack access to clean drinking water.
Global policies from institutions such as the World Bank has left little room for local decisions and instead forced privatization of water on poor countries. The World Bank and other dominant international finance institutions condition their loans on privatization and increased cost recovery‚ which often requires charging water fees from those who make below $2 per day. The result in numerous countries has been disastrous , less access to water for the poor, extremely high tariffs, and poor water quality.
At the same time, to ensure maximum profits, these companies are lobbying to weaken water quality standards, and are promoting new legal and institutional mechanisms to ensure their control over this vital natural resource.
Communities in Africa are on the forefront of that struggle:
Prepaid water meters in Namibia are endangering citizens’ lives by limiting their access to safe and affordable water. The implementation of the prepaid meters has further marginalized families in the poorest communities in the country. Read more.
Prepaid water meters are causing havoc in the most impoverished areas of South Africa. While policies aim to connect millions of South Africans to improved water sources, the result of prepaid water meters are increased disconnections, as people are unable to pay the increased cost. Read more.
It took the World Bank six years to force the privatization of the water system in Tanzanian capital Dar es Salaam , but less than three years for the private operator, British Biwater and German Gauff Ingenieure to get booted due to poor performance and non-payment of lease fees. The corporations were much faster hitting Tanzania with secret lawsuits in both the British High Court and the World Bank based International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), claiming compensation for future lost profits of $20-25 million. Read more.