In October 2004, the people of Uruguay voted to have water officially recognized as a human right within the constitution. Despite much pressure from the IMF and French multinational water corporation Suez, Uruguay went a step further than most countries by recognizing the need for water and sanitation services to be publicly owned and operated. Since then, the month of October is celebrated around the world as "Blue October" - an opportunity for water activists around the world to assert a vision of water justice centered on public control over water resources and services.
In Canada, where the majority of the population enjoys access to some of the best quality public drinking water in the world, there is an increasing push to privatize water services. The Conservative government has made it mandatory for municipalities seeking infrastructure funding of 50 million or more to explore private-public partnerships despite the fact that long-term contracts with private corporations for water and wastewater services have proven to have adverse impacts on public access to these essential services and the environment. For example, in Moncton New Brunswick, water rates have gone up significantly since its treatment facility was taken over by US Filter Canada, a subsidiary of a French multinational corporation. Rates increased 75 per cent between 1999 and 2000.
This Blue October, the Council of Canadians, in partnership with the Canadian Union of Public Employees and other allies, is calling on communities to reclaim public control over water resources through the Blue Communities Project which promotes a water commons approach for the management of water resources. The project invites municipalities to pass resolutions recognizing water as a human right, declaring that water services and infrastructure will be publicly controlled and operated and banning the sale of bottled water in public spaces.
WOMEN AND WATER
A new website in Canada provides analysis on impacts of water contamination and privatization on women's health and well-being. Womenandwater.ca, an online resource recently launched by the National Network on Environments and Women's Health provides a sex and gender based analysis on such issues as chemical contaminants in water supplies and the commercialization of water resources. A paper on women and water privatization written in collaboration with the Council of Canadians argues that hikes in water rates and other adverse impacts of private sector involvement in water services have a deeper effect on women who are much more likely to live below the poverty line in Canada. For more information, visit: www.womenandwater.ca
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