Access to water is a human right?

Here’s an interesting video by the Nestle CEO, talking about access to water:

In case the Youtube video doesn’t work, here’s a local mirror:

Transcript of the subtitles from 2:01 to 3:34 (thanks to AP):

There's that lovely old Austrian folk song
"The dear cattle need water, hollera, holleri!"
if you remember.
Water is of course ...
the most important raw material ...
we have today in the world.
It's a question of whether we should privatise ...
the normal water supply of the population.
And there are two different opinions on the matter.
The one opinion, which I think is extreme,
is represented by the NGOs,
who bang on about ...
declaring water ...
a public right.
That means that as a human being you should have a right ...
to water.
That's an extreme solution.
And the other view says ...
that water is a foodstuff like any other,
and like any other foodstuff it should have a market value.
Personally I believe it's better ...
to give a foodstuff a value ...
so that we're all aware that it has its price,
and then that one should take specific measures ...
for the part of the population that has no access to this water,
and there are many different possibilities there.
[3:34]

So he says that the NGOs push an “extreme” opinion that water is a public right.

Really? This sounds like the robber-baron business model: if you can’t afford it, too bad.

Here’s a quote from Australia’s Statement to the General Assembly on the human right to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation:

We do recognise that access to water and sanitation is fundamental
to the realisation of people’s human rights, as enshrined in the
Universal Declaration on Human Rights, the International Covenant on
Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic,
Social and Cultural Rights.

Some time ago: UN General Assembly Adopts Resolution Recognizing Access to Clean Water, Sanitation as Human Right, by Recorded Vote of 122 in Favour, None against, 41 Abstentions.

“The dear cattle need water, hollera, holleri!”

Archived Comments

Date: 2013-09-06 09:06:20.155402 UTC

Author: andrej

There’s some dodgy thinking there..

Firstly, even if you take the questionable position that water is a foodstuff when we ingest it, this disregards all the other necessary personal uses of water. Personal washing, clothes washing, watering of plants, toilet systems, heating, cooling, as a solvent, in medicines, etc etc. It’s so sneaky to try to jam water into the category “foodstuffs” and then to argue that it should be priced in the same way as other items in that category.

2. Labelling the view that water is a human right as “extreme” is also a disingenuous ploy. It artificially sets up a “scale” of positions and then tries to place two positions (human right vs market-valued foodstuff) on that scale. Calling one of the positions ‘extreme’ is a completely unobjective value judgement. Even if such a scale made sense, one could easily construct far more extreme views (e.g. every person should have as much water as needed to for totally frivolous purposes).

Calling the human right position extreme is a rhetorical ploy to prime us to accept that the other view is moderate and more reasonable, which it may not be. (I say it isn’t but that’s my value judgement.)

3. Water has a cost now. All my family’s water usage costs over $1000 per year. But that is for many kilolitres. A rough calculaton gives an annualised unit cost of about 0.3 cents per litre. Bottled water costs about $3 for 330 ml, or $9 /litre, 3000 times the unit cost of municipal water! How much does Brabeck think water should cost the thirsty cattle?

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