In the first scene of her award-winning documentary Flow, Irena Salina uses the sounds and imagery of water to demonstrate its power and beauty. Our world’s oceans are hearts with many rivers and streams serving as arteries and veins. Just like water gives the earth life, water gives us life. Both the earth and our bodies contain about the same percentage of water. For this reason, Salina documents water’s vitality around the globe videotaping how we as humans have altered the flow of water.
Salina notes that of the 2 million annual deaths brought by waterborne illnesses, most are children. How is this occurring? Salina discusses how countries like the United States are not removing industrial chemicals and pesticides from our water. While you might filter your water from your tap or choose to purchase bottled water, the majority of waterborne diseases are transmitted to us through showering. The water directed from our water supply to our sinks, showers, and toilets carries almost everything you originally put into it. Think of all the cosmetics you put into the sink such as mouthwash, contact lense solution, and makeup. Even the drugs we take end up in our water supply. In Texas, an entire fish population in a river tested positive for Prozac.
Don’t we have a department in the government protecting us from these dangers? Unfortunately, Salina notes that we do not. Furthermore, less than 1% of the FDA oversees bottled water. There are less federal regulations for bottled water than tap water. This would explain why bottled water is not necessarily safer to drink. Indeed, the picture of the glacier or mountain on a label is not always the source of the water in the bottle. Despite the misleading marketing, $100 billion is spent on bottled water annually. The entire water industry is worth $400 billion.
But is it ethical to put a price on water, a natural resource, Salina asks. According to global water corporations, the answer is yes. Salina interviews people of developing nations who have felt the effects of water privatization and commercialization firsthand. Water corporations have entered countries like India, Bolivia, and South Africa, charging locals for a water supply that was free only a few decades before. Originally, the water companies were to provide potable water and sewage to the villages and towns in return for use of their water supply. However, in Bolivia, 1 in 10 children will die before the age of 5. A majority of these deaths are a result of waterborne diseases. Also, a majority of people who lives in these privatized areas resort to filthy, unsafe water because they cannot afford the clean water.
Why do the developing nations allow water companies access to their water supplies? According to Salina, the World Bank promised to cut water development loans and other support if the developing nations did not privatize. Salina asks if it is a coincidence that the World Bank works with the World Water Council on issues of privatization. The World Water Council president is the current president of Marseilles Water Company and the former International Monetary Fund’s president’s 2 advisors are the Vice Presidents of Suez and Vivendi, major water companies in Europe. Indeed, the dams, plants, and facilities built by these huge corporations in developing nations displace thousands of people annually and lessen the quality of their water.
Salina ends her frightful documentary by discussing the increased strength of the water literacy movement, which teaches people the threats of privatization and commercialization of water. When the United Nations state that $30 billion can provide safe, clean water to the world, why do we continue to support global water companies by purchasing $100 billion of bottled water annually? Like air and sunlight, water is a natural resource for all the earth’s inhabitants. No one person is more entitled to water because they happen to be able to afford it. To end the privatization of water, Salina asks that you sign a petition asking the United Nations to add the Right to Water to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. To learn more about Article 31, check out their site and remember to sign the petition! And definitely take the time to watch Flow (currently out on DVD), it is an alarming film, which will open your eyes to the water crisis our world currently faces.