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Rarely do I dedicate hours of my personal time to research and delve into lengthy essay writings.I hadn’t done this much research since my life-draining thesis which ended up as thick as an encyclopedia. After speed reading through several studies and articles as well as the countless documentaries and books I’ve read through the years. This issue has become a growing concern. As I, a U.S. citizen, currently live in a country that just recently experienced a volcanic eruption that left thousands of people left without access to water, them being left to use waterways to drink and maintain their daily lives, or relying on bottled up versions of it provided by its government and donated by their neighboring provinces and NGOs, the water scarcity issue hits close to home. And as I watch, listen, and read in horror on what my home country is planning to do with the Clean Water Act, I cannot help but wonder what these deregulation’s would mean to our water in the States. With a growing number of counties and cities in the U.S. becoming more reliant to bottled water due to contamination found in their tap water, I know it is only a matter of time before clean water will be well out of not only my reach but my family, friends and many others. So here it is…my essay…

Water…is a natural resource made up of H2O, that of which we and all living things rely on to sustain life.

We drink it, bathe in it, grow with it, clean with it, cook with it, swim in it, play in it, and work with it. So much of our life consists of water. 60% of it makes up a human body. We are literally surrounded with water.

71% of Earth is covered in it. 96.5% of that is made up of salt water. 2.5% is trapped in glaciers and ice. The rest can be found in vapor in the air, groundwater, aquifers, and waterways such as rivers and lakes. That’s less than 1% of the entire Earth.

Water…is a vital component to existence that many take for granted.

You would think with such scarcity of water available to us to use, we’d go out of our way to protect this precious lifeblood. Yet many of us treat it as if there is an infinite source we can rely on as we flush gallons of water down the drain without so much as a bat of an eyelash. Many of us were made to think that there would always be an abundance of water and always clean. We put our faith into our gods and government to have our backs.

As humans and companies continue to drain the last of our groundwater (which creates unstable surfaces) and aquifers, Earth is warming up due to climate changes (whether humans have played a part in these changes or not doesn’t change the fact that severe climate situations continually wreak havoc around the world) This can affect the quality and quantity of what is left in those water sources.

If access to drinkable water wasn’t an issue then why are so many companies and governments investing billions of dollars into innovating methods that can desalinate salt water, filter polluted water or extract water from shit? Now that sounds absolutely refreshing…

Water…is a human right.

You would think the government, that is the body of people entrusted to protect our interests, would work even harder to ensure we have access to clean water. Remember, they work for us…the people. The legislation and protections they put forth and enforce are in place to ensure that they uphold their oath to preserve, protect, and defend the constitution to the best of their ability.

“Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” is a phrase in the constitution that describes what our unalienable rights are.  

Without access to clean water, there is no life.

Without access to free clean water, there is no liberty.

Without access to clean water, there is little to no chance in the pursuit of happiness.

But water in our country and for that matter the rest of the world, is not treated as such.

Water…is always at risk and protections are needed to mitigate it.  

Without protections and laws in place to curtail companies from polluting our waters and to ensure that its protected not only in a local level but in a national level as well, what incentives do those that choose to make shortcuts in business practices that may harm our water? 

Only a handful of major companies own more than 70% of the water in the world. That means that our access to water is at the hands of corporations.

In the U.S., most of our water is serviced through public water companies while several privatized water companies in some parts of the U.S. All the water we rely on is regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency aka the EPA.  

The EPA was enacted December 2, 1970 which was initially proposed by Richard Nixon. It is a regulatory body whose sole mission is to protect human and environmental health. They do this by enforcing regulatory laws that are in place to ensure that our air, land and water remain protected. They hold private entities that break those laws by knowingly polluting our environment. Pollution, whether in air, land, or water, can greatly impact not only our livelihood but our mortality rates. When our environment is polluted we become more vulnerable to health issues. Toxic remnants of a company’s irresponsible and unconscionable lack of ethics can reach our water, our food, and have detrimental effects to the air we breathe. We rely on the EPA to police the companies that would rather risk our health and environment over their bottom-line.

The case of United States vs. Reserve Mining is an early testament to the importance of the EPA. Reserve Mining was found guilty of dumping toxic waste into a neighboring lake in Minnesota which found its way into the drinking water of local citizens. They were held accountable for the damage they did to the people of Minnesota and their affected environment. EPA gained the ability to enact regulations that helped forced mining companies to have measures in place to make sure that their waste didn’t contaminate local water. The case which was initially filed by the EPA in 1972 has been mentioned as the reason the Clean Water Act of 1972 was enacted. 

The Clean Water Act was created in 1972 and replaced the Federal Water Pollution Control Act of 1965. It’s primary mission was to restore and maintain the integrity of our country’s water by eliminating discharge of pollutants in the water and achieving water quality levels that are safe for fishing and swimming. These protections would be at risk with the new dirty water rule being placed by the current administration. 

The water contamination that left thousands of people in Flint, Michigan without access to clean water and the cause for several deaths and others getting sick is a more recent testament of what could happen when the EPA fails to do their job. Several complaints and concerns were given to the regional offices of the EPA of which were greatly ignored. Officials in Flint ignored the warnings from countless of people including one of the major water supply companies that looked into Flint for a possible contract. Unfortunately the latter kept their concerns from the public and the officials chose to carry on with their plan to switch from the public water service to the local river in order to cut costs. Unknowingly, the citizens of Flint were left to deal with the consequences of their local governments unethical practices; a consequence that wouldn’t have happened if EPA had done its job correctly. Until now, thousands of residents are still without accessible water and those that have access to water that is said to be safe after the city fixed the issue, are wary of using it for more than flushing their toilet. Who can blame them for not trusting the city officials when the sting of betrayal is still so fresh in their minds? Despite the issues of water contamination, the citizens of Flint pay a hefty amount for water they can’t even use all the while Nestle is allowed to pump at a water source nearby for only $200 per year. Nestle makes billions in profit to sell water in a plastic bottle that came from a water source that the people in that town can’t even access. (Not to mention that in order to make those plastic bottles, tons of water is being used as well as being a major source of plastic pollution found in our water)  The city eventually gave free bottles of water to the people of Flint which was supplied by Nestle due to a wave of national backlash pointed in their direction. However, Nestle eventually stopped the supply. People in other cities became concerned about the quality of their tap water and research found that much of our water supply is already tainted with forever chemicals that scientists say can have dire repercussions to our health.

Water…is priceless. 

Companies and governments however manage to put a hefty price on water creating liquid gold.

Just how much money would you be willing to fork over to get even one gallon of water?

 It is not a matter of if such an issue will occur to rest of the worlds’ population it is a matter of when. Nary will a skeptic be left to ignore the problem. The skeptics with the financial ability to pay won’t concern themselves while the skeptics who don’t will be finding themselves in similar situations as the people of Flint, Australia, and a growing number of third world countries.

What is it like to have a country that doesn’t own most of its water rights? Just look at all the third world countries that had been forced to release their rights due to economic constraints or bullying by companies. Countries like Uganda, Ghana, Nigeria, Pakistan, Nepal, and Congo have a growing population that have little to no access to drinking water. Many are left to rely on purchasing bottled water. The poorer populations are left with hardly any other alternative but to use water sourced from their polluted waterways which can lead to higher mortality rates. Many are forced to drink water where they bathe, launder their clothes, clean their food, wash their dishes, and dump waste.

Water…is a commodity that is becoming increasingly scarce and exploited by the wealthy and the powerful.  

Australia, a country that has been dealing with increasing waves of drought and being ravaged by catastrophic fires, has a significant portion of their accessible water being owned by foreign entities. Entities such as Olam, an agricultural company, had recently sold a portion of their water rights to a Canadian investment manager. As fires ate away homes, businesses, and animal habitats and claim several peoples’ lives, the government decided to sell billions of liters to a Chinese company…that bottles water and in turn sells it for profit. Firemen and the citizens of Australia were left to battle these fires with little water while their country’s leader was sitting pretty on vacation in another country.

We pay for water…in more ways than one. All the while powerful companies are profiteering by either owning the water rights or given the right by governments to drain our water sources.  There is a growing concern over the increasing number of private companies holding the rights to water. While these companies make billions for themselves as well as their shareholders, that wealth trickles down. They trickle down to lobbyists and government officials. The latter in return create or dismantle regulations and protections that protect those companies’ bottom lines.

As greed and corruption grow up the corporate and political chains unheeded, the citizens of these countries will be left with nothing. Until more people unite to push back against these lawless environmental policies, we will continue to have restricted access to clean water and be at the mercy of the government that puts the importance of money over their citizens and the environment.

Government of the people, by the people, and for the people seems to have mostly perished from the Earth…unless of course we replace the word “people” with “companies”.

 “For many of us, clean water is so plentiful and readily available that we rarely, if ever, pause to consider what life would be like without it.” - Marcus Samuelsson

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