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This could be a very long post so I think I’ll split it into several over the next few months.

Get into a discussion with folks on water and a few short sentences is all it will take before the rhetorical club if “social justice” is used to stifle discussion. At the risk of wasting too much time trying to use reason and evidence to study water I’ll start by playing on “their” turf.

To suggest that water is a human right and to defend that argument ardently produces quite a striking insight. It is usually used as an argument against any private agency being involved in water conservation, sanitation, distribution, etc. But private agency is only required if the resource in question is truly scarce.

The folks that argue that private agency is unnecessary are simply arguing that water is not scarce. It cannot mean anything else particularly given the sordid history of government provision of anything other than death and misery.

This is quite inconvenient for the ideology of those who see water as a human rights issue. Many of these folks make a living as modern day Malthusians, but then one of their core beliefs is an anti-Malthusian one.

So I’d get on the “no private property in water” bandwagon in a heartbeat if they truly believed water was not scarce. But I don’t think they understand this nor do I think they believe government has any difficulty delivering much of anything.

And if they wish to argue that fresh water is scarce, as indeed all of their “research” and documentaries claim, then we are simply back to an argument that is hard for them to win: how best to deliver scarce goods and to ensure their availability in the future?

They don’t usually do well in those arguments without appealing to postmodern ideas.

2 Responses to “Water as a Human Right, Part I”

  1. Brian says:

    As a 6th generation Californian i have watched water wars and heard family tales of them my entire life. The colossal corruption and shear waste is outrageous.

    Southern Californians have paid billions for the state water projects and then, like Charlie Brown and the football, oops it has to go somewhere else!

    My favorite was during a drought a few years back when Southern Californians weren’t allowed to wash their cars or water their lawns in the interests of conservation. The only problem was that the state the year before had decided that there was a surplus of water and had made a multi-year “commitment” to sell water to cotton farmers at about 1% of what we were charged. To add further insult, cotton was a “surplus” crop that the federal government then subsidized through price supports. I couldn’t use the water, but the bill for the water project still showed up on my property taxes (to the tune of several hundred dollars per year) and our higher water rates subsidized the cotton farmers who were spraying water on the desert for a crop they couldn’t sell!

  2. Harry says:

    Great point, Wintercow.

    Just because one can walk into a bar in the Bowery and get a free glass of water, plus a free trip to the rest room for another few gallons to flush down whatever, that argument holds together only on the principle of Judaeo-Christian charity. There is a world of difference between giving someone a drink of water and making water a right.

    This is a fascinating subject, though. My house was built next to a creek, on high ground, but close enough to the creek so it would not take a whole man-day to fetch water. Some time later, the dug a well. In no case, even with water flowing in the creek, was water free. It is still cheap, though, even after counting the cost of my submersible pump and paying for the electricity to pump the water. To water my tomatoes. Come to my place you get free water, free tomatoes, and (Wintercow will like this) free beer.

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