A story of Water

The expression watergrabbing, or “water hoarding” refers to a situation in which powerful actors, public or private, are able to take control of or reallocate precious water resources for their own benefit, at the expense of local communities and ecosystems on which the communities’ livelihoods are based.

The effects are devastating: families driven from their villages to make room for mega dams, privatization of water sources, water polluted for industrial purposes that benefit few and damage water quality, control of water sources by military forces to limit development.

In 2010 the United Nations General Assembly approved a resolution recognizing access to clean water and sanitation as fundamental human rights. The historic resolution on the motion presented by Evo Morales Ayma, President of Bolivia, along with thirty other countries, states that “drinking water and sanitation services are human rights essential to the full enjoyment of the right to life and of all other human rights.” Yet today, this right is not actively protected by member states.

The member states have also failed to respect the United Nations treaty on transboundary waters to mitigate the risk of conflicts related to water, which only 39 states have signed to-date. The United States and China remain deaf to calls to support the legal document.

In the so-called southern parts of the world, but also in some industrialized countries, water is turning from a freely accessible common good to a private good, or one controlled by those in power. Under the pressure of growing water demand due to the increase in population and industrial growth in developing countries in the grip of climate change, which is more and more visible in our daily lives, water is becoming a source of conflict. A scarce commodity that must be “hoarded” at the neighbor’s expense, even to the detriment of women and girls who take care of gathering water daily, taking time from education and work.

This special “Watergrabbing – a Story of Water,” looks into the water-hoarding phenomenon. Every story explains a specific theme (transboundary waters, dams, hoarding for political and economic purposes), and shows the players involved, country-by-country. Photos, articles, and maps will take you on this journey. As a tool for reference, we have also created a geographic atlas, available for download to the curious reader, student or researcher. Take time to read and discover what water grabbing means. So that water can become a right for each country and every person.