On Tap at the WTO: Private Water

By Joshua Holland

Water is viewed as one of the last "profit centers" by the international financial institutions and trade can impact whether it becomes a commodity or stays in public hands -- 90 percent of the world's water supplies remain in the public trust. Most notably water's on the table with the privatization of municipal water systems being aggressively pushed under the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), a wide-ranging treaty that covers a host of services, both public and private.

Vandana Shiva, the scientist and global justice activist, argued this week that "we need to recognize that 90 percent of humanity lives on water as commons today." She lambasted a recent World Bank report urging poor countries to privatize their water systems, saying, "It actually talks about one major threat to water markets being community rights to water, and says these must be dismantled. As if there's something wrong with the commons, as if it's a primitive stage of human existence."