From here on, every drop counts - literally

Maude Barlow takes a tough look at the water crisis brewing up in the world and criticizes “big water” and governments for watering down a crucial issue.

“It’s a form of collective insanity to be drinking bottled water”, said Maude Barlow to the audience in Hendricks Chapel at Syracuse University. Because, "big water" is sucking out the water that belongs to people and then selling it back to them.

The last speaker in this year’s University Lecture series, Barlow is the National Chairperson of the Council of Canadians and chairs the board of Washington-based Food and Water Watch. She is also the bestselling author or co-author of 16 books, including the international best seller Blue Covenant: The Global Water Crisis and The Coming Battle for the Right to Water.

Photo: Maliha Aqueel
Maude Barlow, Co-Founder of The Blue Planet Project, signs her book for a supporter after her lecture in Henricks Chapel.

Barlow said the scarcity of water in the world is a "human crisis of terrible proportions" and it's not just far away but right here in North America, Barlow said. The Colorado River is "in catastrophic decline", Texas is in trouble and Florida is "sinking" because it's sucked up too much water from underneath the earth it stands on.

She predicts a dark future if enough isn't done in time. Twenty-two countries in Africa are nearing a huge crisis. China is sucking up water to maintain its industrial supply of products to the rest of the world. And, not too far, Mumbai in India is hitting the bottom of the water table. Mexico City is sinking on itself, and having to dig up further and further to find water.

Barlow told the audience to imagine a future where there will be conflicts over water, and the rich will have access to buy it and the poor will suffer. According to her, it's already happening. In South Africa for a conference, Barlow saw people swiping an electric key at a water pump to buy water for household use. In Detroit, Michigan water was cut off to 45,000 families because they couldn't pay their water bills.

The solution? Barlow said water has be recognized as a public trust and a commons. It needs to be understood across governments and international rights organizations that water is a basic human right, a right that no one can buy off. This past June, Barlow was there when the UN recognized the fundamental human right to water and sanitation. United States and Canada opposed the resolution and abstained from voting but it still went through.

And to a mostly student audience, Barlow ended her talk with some advice: "There's no life better than the life of an activist, to care for something beyond yourself". 

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