Blog Posts: Water

February 15th, 2019

Zurich Citizens’ Vote for Public Water

By David Sánchez

Learn more about stopping water privatization in Zurich.To a certain extent, attempts to privatise water have started looking like an anachronism in Europe. From Madrid and Thessalonoki to Berlin and Italy, every time citizens have been asked, they have massively supported public water management. If we have learned a lesson after years of imposed austerity, it is that water privatization can only have a chance when it is imposed against citizens’ will, as we are still witnessing in Greece. With a trend to remunicipalise water services around the world, some of the main examples are happening in European cities like Terrassa and Valladolid in Spain; Montpellier in France; Mafra in Portugal; and Torino in Italy.

The last ones to reject privatization plans are the citizens of Zurich, Switzerland. Last Sunday, voters rejected (by more than 50 percent) the plans of the cantonal government to allow the partial privatization of water utilities and to give private land owners a greater say in river and lakeshore use.

Rejecting recommendations by the main centre-right parties and big business, a campaign lead by left wing parties, unions and environmental groups managed to raise awareness about water commodification and against the privatization of nature.

Saying no is not enough

The morning after the referendum, an initiative was introduced in the parliament of the Canton of Zurich to guarantee public ownership over water and take initiatives to promote the human right to water. It’s a great example of how we can move from resistance into proactive campaigns to secure a model of public water management that promotes social justice.

If you read German, you can get more information about the situation in Zurich in the website of the campaign and in the press release from the trade unions.

October 22nd, 2018

Providing Universal Access to Water for all in the European Union Could Help Reducing Plastic Waste

By David Sánchez

This Tuesday, the plenary of the European Parliament will vote on a legislation regulating water for human consumption. The European Commission is framing this directive as an answer to the European Citizens’ Initiative for the Human Right to Water.

Already more than forty civil society organisations from all over the world sent a letter to Members of the European Parliament encouraging them to support the Human Right to Water in this vote. Now, organisations fighting waste and plastic pollution reminded MEPs of the importance to be coherent with efforts done under the circular economy package and take clear commitments to reduce the consumption of bottled water in the European Union.

You can check out the joint letter with Friends of the Earth Europe, Zero Waste Europe, Surfrider Foundation Europe, Seas at Risk, Rethink Plastics, Break Free from Plastic, Environmental Investigation Agency and Food & Water Europe.

See the letter

August 13th, 2018

We’re Literally Eating and Drinking Plastic. Fossil Fuels Are To Blame.

Originally posted on Food & Water Watch.

Download the fact sheet

By Darcey Rakestraw

Care about plastic pollution? Then it’s time to work to start moving away from fossil fuels.

Plastic is a serious problem, and it’s time we addressed it at its source: fossil fuel production. Plastics are increasingly fueled by fracking in the U.S.—the extreme method of extracting fossil fuels that is polluting our air and our water, and exacerbating climate change. Fracking provides the cheap raw materials for plastics production, which has lead industry publication Plastics News to say fracking “represents a once-in-a-generation opportunity.” More fracking equals more profit in plastics (which equals, you guessed it…more plastics.)
Read the full article…

November 29th, 2017

Up to the Last Drop: The Secret Water War in Europe

By David Sánchez

Water is a human right and a common good. But it is also one of the main focuses of transnational corporations that want to profit from this scarce resource. The struggle to defend public water is now exposed in the new documentary Up to the Last Drop: The Secret Water War in Europe.

For decades, corporations have pushed for the privatization of public services – including water. In Europe, several attempts supported by the European Commission have been launched since the neoliberal wave of the 90s. Still, today some of the countries affected by the austerity crisis – Ireland, Greece, Portugal – are resisting water privatization imposed by the Troika. Water has been on the negotiation table of the new wave of free trade agreements like TTIP and TISA, and is included in CETA, which contains several provisions that put public water management and water resources under international trade and investment mechanisms.

Read the full article…

July 3rd, 2017

How Our Fossil Fuel Addiction is Ruining Our Oceans

By Taylor Avery of Food & Water Watch

Across the globe, people purchase about 20,000 plastic bottles every second. The vast majority of these bottles are not recycled and end up in landfills or in the ocean. It’s escalating into a major environmental crisis, and the fossil fuel industry is partially to blame.

While many of these bottles are made out of polyethylene terephthalate (PET), a highly recyclable material, efforts to recycle fail to keep up with the growing rate at which people use plastic bottles. Moreover, major food corporations continue to manufacture demand for soda and bottled water, packaged mainly in plastic, which takes hundreds of years to decompose.

In 2010, nearly 200 coastal countries generated over 275 million tons of plastic waste. In 2016, 480 billion tons of plastic drinking bottles were sold across the world. A report conducted by the National Association for PET Container Resources (NAPCOR) found only about 30 percent of PET bottles in the U.S. (most bottled water bottles) were recycled in 2015. Major drink brands like Coca-Cola produce the greatest number of plastic bottles, but the top six beverage companies package their products in bottles that use very little recycled PET. That mostly unrecycled plastic ends up in the ocean where it is consumed by wildlife.

Read the full article…

January 26th, 2017

2017 – Food & Water Europe Is Ready To Stand Its Ground

By Andy Gheorghiu, Frida Kieninger, David Sánchez

Many people said 2016 was a bad year. And there were many reasons: the result of the US elections, Brexit, or the high toll of environmental activists that were killed for standing for their communities around the globe. We don’t know what 2017 will look like, but we are sure that we want to be ready for some of the challenges we will find for our food, our water, our climate and our democracy. Together, we need to make 2017 a better year. And united we will have the power to do so!

Read the full article…

October 12th, 2016

Hitting The Wall: How European Institutions Insist On Privatizing Greek Water

By David Sánchez

foodwatereuropegreekwaterrightsBrexit was a real shock here in Brussels. For the first time, a member state decided to leave the club. It was really tempting to expect a reaction, a debate about the role of EU policies in this collective failure. But this European Union captured by big companies and ruled by a dogmatic neoliberal elite keeps doing business as usual. What happened in the last few weeks in Greece was another brutal example.

Read the full article…

August 11th, 2016

Reversing The Tide: Spain Moves Into Water Remunicipalization

By David Sánchez

Food and Water Europe El Agua No Es NegocioJust one year ago we were arguing about how Spain was still resisting the last wave of water privatization, as a result of austerity policies and debt, seasoned with corruption scandals.

But as a result of the local and regional elections a year ago, the tide changed. As a reaction to the long-term crisis, attacks to public services and corruption in traditional parties, many citizen movements organized to run for the elections, with great success in Madrid, Barcelona, Zaragoza, Ferrol, Santiago, Cádiz, Coruña and Valencia, among others.

One of the key achievements of those movements was to introduce in the public sphere the debate on how to manage public services, like water. By the end of 2015, 57 percent of the population in Spain received their tap water from a private operator. One of the most worrying consequences is that more than 500,000 families receive water cut off warnings every year, according to data from the Spanish public water companies association.

Read the full article…

March 16th, 2016

Super Mario Bros Vs. the European Commission

By David Sánchez

FoodandWaterEuropeActNowRightToWaterEvery Tuesday evening, an office in the second district of Rome opens its doors in an old cinema to provide information to families whose water supply has been cut-off for not being able to pay the bills. This self-organized group called Bastadistacchi puts families in touch with Super Mario and his patrol of water activists, who break the seal installed by the water company so those families can have their right to water.

A few months ago, the regional Ombudsman from Andalusia, in southern Spain, published a new report stating that water poverty is a severe problem after many years of austerity policies. Some sources estimate around one million water cut-off warning letters are sent every year in Spain. Just one company, Agbar-Suez, admitted that they initiate 12.000 water cut-offs per month. The regional ombudsman was concerned about the situation suffered by many families who cannot afford to pay water bills, and advocated for regulation guaranteeing that nobody can be deprived from access to water for economic reasons.

Read the full article…

January 20th, 2016

Nitrogen On The Table, Nitrates In The Tap

By David Sánchez

FoodandWaterEuropeDangerousNitrogenFactoryFarmsNitrogen is a basic component of our food and a vital nutrient for plants and crops to grow. But high concentrations are harmful to people and nature. Last week, the presentation of a scientific report in the European Parliament, “Nitrogen on the Table”, tried to call attention to this problem. In this report, the authors considered the major benefits of reduced meat and dairy consumption in Europe, since so far more focus has been put on the supply side, developing technological solutions. And I fully agree; we need to reduce European consumption of meat and dairy, and we need to look beyond those “miraculous” technological solutions.

But I always have some concerns when the political debate focuses too much on individual solutions, like reducing meat consumption. For me, that means we are missing one key question: Who is really causing the mess?

Read the full article…


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