Water is a human right but not a free good

By Peter Brabeck-Letmathe

04 October 2012 See comments (32)

water management

Water is a human right! Water needed for drinking, cooking and basic hygiene as basis for survival must be available even for a person unable to pay. If one asks about the legal basis: the right to life is an essential part in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Art 3). And with Article 24 expressing the right to a standard of living adequate for human health, it is clear that this is about truly safe water.

But contrary to many other rights stipulated in the Declaration there must be limits: water to fill a private swimming pool or to wash a car, for instance, is not a free public good; rather it should be a normal commercial good covering at least the full cost of infrastructure, not subsidised or even distributed for free. Quite probably, no Court of Human Rights would object to municipal water schemes stopping supply for pools in a period of drought when not enough water is available for drinking. Personally, I would find such an objection rather extreme.

UN Resolution 64/292, approved by the General Assembly formalised and confirmed this on 28 July 2010:

"The General Assembly:

  1. Recognizes the right to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation as a human right that is essential for the full enjoyment of life and all human rights;
  2. Calls upon States and international organizations to provide financial resources, capacity-building and technology transfer, through international assistance and cooperation, in particular to developing countries, in order to scale up efforts to provide safe, clean, accessible and affordable drinking water and sanitation for all."

For many years before the 2010 resolution, Nestlé formally, in its business principles, and I personally, in numerous public speeches, have been strong supporters of water as a human right.

What needs to be done?

The World Health Organization (pdf, document) estimates the water need for drinking, cooking and basic hygiene in emergency situations at 15 litres per person per day: WHO also mentions a number of out-of-home water requirements, in hospitals, mosques for ceremonial purposes, schools etc. Ultimately, basic needs are estimated by different sources at 25-50 litres per capita per day. Assuming 25 litres, this would be a global volume of 1.5% of water withdrawals for human use. In other words, the problem here is not shortage of water, but something one might consider bad management.

The United Nations General Assembly in its resolution of 28 July 2010 leaves no doubt: responsibility is clearly with the state. And actually, more than 97% of municipal water in developing and emerging economies is distributed by publicly owned and publicly managed entities. Most of the remaining (pdf document) 3% are run in public private partnerships. The only notable exception is Chile, which I will come back to.

Rather than concentrating on a legalistic understanding, however, let me illustrate with some practical examples of what seems to work and what may be problematic with respect to implementing water as a human right.

Water should not be a free good

I mentioned this as an extreme case for washing cars and filling private pools. But there are other more delicate situations that need to be evaluated. In the Indian Punjab, for instance, everybody pumps up water from the underground aquifer – mostly to irrigate the fields. There are no limits; electricity for the pumps is provided for free by the government. As a result, water tables are falling by up to one metre per year (National Geophysical Research Institute).

Everybody, particularly the farmers withdrawing most of this water, knows that they are destroying their livelihood. But with water as a free good, even if an individual decides to reduce the amount withdrawn by pumping, this individual knows that the neighbours and neighbouring villages will pump up anyway. Water as a free good leads directly to what is known as the ‘tragedy of the commons’; exploited by all, protected by none. For good reasons, it is not part of resolution 64/292.

Farmers in Oman have, I think, found a good solution more than 4,000 years ago that is still functioning well today; I plan to write about this on my blog later on. But there are, of course, other ways to do it, too. 

Untargeted subsidies are counterproductive

Many municipalities are avoiding full cost recovery by the tariffs charged to those who have tap water at home. They do it as a measure of ‘social support’ to the poor, but actually they only make the water for the more prosperous less expensive. The poor pay the price. The municipal schemes lack resources for proper maintenance and for expansion to those arriving from rural areas. Ultimately, as the chart shows, the poor pay a much higher price for water to street vendors.

Paid per m³ of drinking water, in US¢. Source: UNDP, Human Development Report.
Paid per m³ of drinking water, in US¢. Source: UNDP, Human Development Report.

Focused subsidies in South Africa and in Chile

Not everybody can afford to pay a tariff for water that covers all costs. So the subsidies for tap water address a real issue, although with the wrong instruments. There are better ways! Let me mention just two examples.

In 2000, the South African government introduced the Free Basic Water policy. Every household who cannot afford to pay will get up to 6,000 litres of water per month at no cost (based on a 25 litres per person per day for an assumed average family of eight).

Chile, the main exception where municipal water is distributed by independent private firms, where all costs are fully recovered through water tariffs, introduced the Soidario system in 2002: As part of it, authorities set a percentage of a household’s water bill that can be subsided: not less than 25% or more than 75% of consumption, up to a total consumption of 20 m3 per month. In 2010, 702,000 households received (pdf document) such a subsidy.

A lot remains to be done

About 800 million people in the world still lack access to safe drinking water – and for billions of those with access to ‘improved’ water this water is not truly safe.

The discussion about the human right to water has to continue, not in largely abstract legal terms but rather as debate about its practical, and in that respect also political, implementation.

This blog is only one among many sites looking into this important topic – but with your comments we may add a few new ideas. I welcome your thoughts.

  1. William Sarni @ Deloitte Consulting LLP

    25 Oct 2012 - 02:54 (GMT)

    Historically, the issues of a human’s right to water and pricing water according to its value have been viewed as conflicting positions. However, I think access to water and ‘fair’ pricing can be reconciled.

    In order to do so, the questions to be addressed are:
    • How can access to clean water be provided for everyone?
    • How can water be managed sustainably for human and ecological needs?
    • How can water be priced “fairly” to cover infrastructure costs such as extraction, treatment, delivery capital costs and maintenance?

    Many people might agree that considerable progress is needed in providing access to clean water along with sanitation and that the answer to the second question above is the topic of considerable research and public policy initiatives.

    I think the third question is of certain importance. In order to price water fairly, the challenge of how to pay for the water extraction, treatment and delivery of clean water has to be addressed. This challenge is not only relevant to developing countries but also developed countries as their water infrastructures are likely in dire need of repair to meet the increasing demand.

    The two examples cited in the post – public policy and water pricing aligned – provide viable answers to the quandary of providing access to clean water (at a set volume) at a “fair” price while not providing “free” unlimited use of water.

    One point that was not prominently raised in the discussion is how can public policy and pricing increase the efficient use of water? Overall, the general populations’ use of water is very inefficient, possibly because there are no real incentives to use water efficiently. We simply cannot continue this behavior as we will certainly see the impact of scarcity in the near future if we do.

    I think public policy – which establishes water use and efficiency targets – could be aligned with pricing, resulting in cost aligned with usage. The result could be the higher the usage of water the higher the price, creating awareness of the cost and encouraging responsible usage behavior in the general population.

    I believe this could potentially be a sound start to building sustainable water management practices.


    William Sarni
    Deloitte Consulting LLP
    Director and Practice Leader, Enterprise Water Strategy

    These comments contain general information only and Deloitte is not, by means of this post, rendering accounting, business, financial, investment, legal, tax, or other professional advice or services. These comments are not a substitute for such professional advice or services, nor should it be used as a basis for any decision or action that may affect your business. Before making any decision or taking any action that may affect your business, you should consult a qualified professional advisor.

    Deloitte shall not be responsible for any loss sustained by any person who relies on this post.
    As used in this post, "Deloitte" means Deloitte Consulting LLP, a subsidiary of Deloitte LLP. Please see www.deloitte.com/us/about for a detailed description of the legal structure of Deloitte LLP and its subsidiaries. Certain services may not be available to attest clients under the rules and regulations of public accounting.

  2. Peter Brabeck-Letmathe @ Nestlé

    06 Nov 2012 - 10:01 (GMT)

    Dear Mr Sarni
    Thanks for this comment – and apologies for a late reply, I was travelling.
    I agree with your questions, I think they address the heart of the matter. And stories like those from Phnom Penh water supply show that those who follow your implicit and explicit advice get to the right solutions. I also agree with the importance you give to public policy, less however with an approach for general efficiency targets, but more with comprehensive, watershed-based solutions, that bring withdrawals back into line with natural renewal in a cost-effective way. I wonder whether this approach is also part of your advisory work in this area.
    Peter Brabeck-Letmathe

  3. Valerie @ Deur Design

    17 Apr 2013 - 16:18 (GMT)

    I am wondering what Peter Brabeck-Letmathe thinks about horizontal drilling (fracking) for natural gas and the damage it can do to water, whether it is water in the public domaine, private wells or the water, spring or otherwise, that Nestle pumps to sell.

  4. Victoria Kelley @ Individual

    17 Apr 2013 - 16:57 (GMT)

    Hi Peter. I came across this blog when you posted it as a response to a rather inflammatory interpretation of an interview you gave on the issue. http://keithpp.wordpress.com/2013/04/15/nestle-chairman-says-water-is-not-a-human-right/
    While I didn't agree with that fellow's interpretation of your intent, truth be told, my inner idealist tends to throw in with the free for all (or free-for-all, as it may be) rendition of Water as a basic human right. I wanted to illuminate for you one point of view that this idea tends to come from.
    Things I feel I know, that have colored my perception:
    #1 - The vast majority of water is not used in home or in small scale general public use as you've focused on. "Domestic" world wide water usage accounts for 10 percent of total consumption. In some Industrial nations, Industry can account for up to 80% of all water use. In developing nations, of course, Agriculture is the primary consumer, tipping the worldwide average for this use to 70% or 90% by some estimates. Now, when we talk about Agriculture, are we really talking about Mr. Smith or Mrs. Punjabi pumping water for small scale, inefficient family farms as you've illustrated, or are we talking about large scale, water intensive cereal crops and meat producers? As Sandra Postel (and others) has said, "Grain is the currency by which we trade water." These are large, manageable systems, not intrinsic acts of individuals.
    #2 - Fresh water is inherently clean and potable in it's natural state with minor purification. The only reason it needs to be sanitized and managed to begin with is because of our irresponsibility in keeping this precious resource clean.
    I grew up in various parts of Appalachia where it used to be common to pull our weekly water from a public spring on the side of the road. Others, anyone who owns a good bit of property, have their own springs and wells. At some point, after one suspected bacterial contamination, all of our usual springs were closed to the public. You may say "well, yes, that is a big risk with that kind of free system." Translated in the developing world, where water can be more scarce and population more dense, and where sanitation is not something to take lightly, this kind of bacterial contamination of the water supply can account for a rather high percentage of total disease and death.
    Your solution, that of Industrial sanitation and management of household water even in rural areas, includes a rather grim assumption that disease and pollution is essentially part of the "natural state" of water. This is worrisome to many people, myself included. In that sort of world, protecting our fresh water supply is a non-issue as it is believed human ingenuity can defeat any contaminate but it can't defeat the necessity for contamination. Many of us on this lovely and abundant earth do not believe a government or private issued bubble is the solution to our environmental and social woes. We believe the solution to carry into the future for clean, readily available water must start with the problems.
    A partial list of areas that problems can be found, in no particular order: Human waste sanitation in dense and low populations, Agricultural practices, Industrial practices, and very lastly, other domestic management (grass watering and car washing for instance).
    My father in law used to regale me with stories in his neck of Appalachia, where some of the particularly poor or less forward thinking individuals would pump their septic and water waste straight into the creek or river in the backyard. As you can imagine, Industries along the James River were no less forward thinking, and did the same thing on a larger scale. Thank goodness someone stepped in and made some rules. But even so, it was the very poor and under educated, and large, private companies who chose to do this. A small percentage of people with a large impact rather than, as you've alluded to, all of us significantly contributing in a way that cannot be reasonably legislated or otherwise controlled. In my research years ago on pollution of the Ganges River in India, I turned up about the same proportions as in the James of pollutants from poor, rural families and large industrial operations, mainly poorly run waste water treatment facilities from larger cities. Part of my own definition of a Public good is that if one person exploits or diminishes the good, they are robbing from all their neighbors. The "tragedy of the commons" is a terrible straw man in the industrialized world where there are resources to educate the population on hygiene (that is already largely educated in this area). As such, with representation from a democratically elected government from a body of educated individual citizens, public stewardship is inherent and the private sector does not fill this need.
    All that said, if you'd like to run your experiments in privatizing an essential component of life in the developing world where governments aren't as robust, public dollars as plentiful, and citizen participation as practiced, it could surely be an improvement. I can't help but worry, though, that here in America, Privatizing our waterways and aquifers would be taking several steps back to the time of the old James River. If you would like to spell out precisely your proposed mechanism of ownership and accountability to the public at large, I would be happy to pass it on in order to dispel the general fears of robber barons guarding the town Well. Thank you for taking your time and putting on your most patient hat to read my post. Best wishes.

  5. Peter Brabeck-Letmathe @ Chairman

    18 Apr 2013 - 14:49 (GMT)

    Hi Victoria,
    Many thanks for your very thoughtful comments - I cannot respond to all of your points, but I will take some time to think about them.
    Just two aspects: there has been a increase in population growth since our parents and grandparents’ generation, and the fact that water was still abundant compared to all our withdrawals is now being overused. I posted several comments on this: industry playing a big part in energy production, cereal production across the world, and increasingly biofuels (again several posts).
    But my point is: The water you need for survival is a human right, and must be made available to everyone, wherever they are, even if they cannot afford to pay for it. Here is my latest post: https://www.water-challenge.com/posts/Water-you-need-for-survival-is-a-human-right-some-clarity
    You address other important aspects, which I will come back to at a later stage. But maybe other readers of my blog might have ideas on this?

  6. Victoria Kelley @ Individual

    18 Apr 2013 - 20:10 (GMT)

    Peter, thank you so very much for taking the time to consider the perspective of some of your detractors and myself. I have a great deal of respect for you and your willingness to reflect on and deeply consider your approach to an issue that I'm beginning to see is very important to you. I am grateful to have the opportunity to do the same, by researching primary sources and reading arguments on all sides that put them forth. In a recent Guardian interview, you said:
    "This amount of water [approx 30 litres] is the primary responsibility of every government to make available to every citizen of this world, but this amount of water accounts for 1.5% of the total water which is for all human usage."
    Here is my concern: Going by my statistics above (which may or may not line up with ones you have), the other approx. 9% of total water usage that is used domestically is considered a luxury and should have a market value like any other. I understand that you're concerned about food security and the "nexus" relationship between that and water. It seems you understand the depth and breadth of this nexus better than just about anyone. However, some of your customers and the concerned public see this as insincere grandstanding in light of comments coming from your otherwise very professional PR dept (don't recall if you've said anything of the sort) that seem to blame our scarcity on swimming pools and lawns. From someone who is beginning to see where you're coming from, I believe emphasizing the responsibility that Big Agriculture and Big Industry have in being good stewards of our resources, will go a long way in calming the storm. The "blame 'em then save 'em" approach seems to be the real thorn in the side. Calling on your fellow Multi-nationals to do everything in their power to conserve, mitigate impact, and repair our precious water (I understand that you feel commoditization will have this effect, but many would like to see the muck boots and work gloves come out) would be a better long term approach for all concerned parties than pointing the finger at NGO's and individuals.
    Thank you again. My sincerest support to you on your journey to discovering the best solution to this growing crisis.

  7. Michael Barnett @ Sears Holdings

    21 Apr 2013 - 07:01 (GMT)

    At this point, I would simply like to thank the both of you for a levelheaded, intelligent discussion. I came here "mad as hell" because of a meme that's floating around the internet, but I was (pleasantly) stunned to discover the depth of rational thought put forward on the matter by Mr. Brabeck-Letmathe, and to discover adults having serious discussions. I believe we're on the same page regarding one most serious ethical issue: every single human being has a right to clean water for personal hygiene and for consumption. Where we diverge, I think, is opinions on best management practices, as well as the "relationship" humans have with water, particularly in the so-called First World nations. (i.e., is it a basic right or a consumer commodity? If it is a commodity, how do we assign value and trade?)

  8. Chris Granner @ cgmusic

    17 Apr 2013 - 17:51 (GMT)

    The case made by the author and affirmed by Dr. Sarni supports and provides justification for sound management of a potentially scarce resource. However this argument doesn't provide more than implicit support for privatization of any part of that management, with its (also implicit) profit component; without question a double-edged sword as efficiencies of capital allocation under competitive circumstances are set against the extractive (and potentially cost-externalizing) financial flows to the private entity.

    I submit that any public/private partnership to deliver safe drinking water (NOT a right, in my view, but rather an opportunity to extend the amount of time any bio-region can support a human population) be constrained by certain criterion, primarily an ongoing, objective measure of the health of the natural water supply -- in the Punjab, for instance, this would be done by observing an increase in the water table elevation. Evidence of the opposite result should trigger a review in which the partnership is investigated for extractive behavior (either of the water, as in the case of Ice Mountain's practice of mining fresh water from the Michigan watershed, or of outsized financial flows to the private partner) or of out-and-out corruption -- with the burden of proof on the officers managing both sides of the partnership.

  9. Michelle Beauchamp @ self-employed

    17 Apr 2013 - 21:00 (GMT)

    This is an interesting debate to be sure. However, there is one point that I think is crucial. Water is a human right. As such there should be no charge for access to adequate, safe, clean, water. EVER.

    I do agree that there needs to be regulation so that water is not wasted and measures taken at every level - individual, community, state, as well as corporate - to ensure this. The first step is education, not deprivation. Untargetted subsidies, as you point out, do not seem to work; providing water free up to the level of basic needs seems a better idea.

    If Nestle is serious about water conservation, I was wondering if you could please tell me what measures have been taken worldwide to reduce water consumption in your many processing plants, and whether you have undertaken any educational initiatives in the communities where you operate, with your employees as ambassadors. I know I certainly haven't heard of any in the Pacific NorthWest.

    Could you also confirm that none of your top-level executives have private swimming pools at any of their residences? That would not fall under "basic human need."

    I enjoy quite a few of Nestle's products, and would prefer not to boycott, or encourage others to do so, if Nestle is in fact promoting water conservation out of anything other than self-serving profit-centred policies. However, that does not seem to be the case.

    I look forward to a response.

  10. Peter Brabeck-Letmathe @ Chairman

    18 Apr 2013 - 17:26 (GMT)

    Dear Michelle,
    Thank you for your comment. I agree, water for survival is a human right and should be free. Here is my latest post: https://www.water-challenge.com/posts/Water-you-need-for-survival-is-a-human-right-some-clarity
    We take the issue of water conservation very seriously and are supporting sanitation and hygiene projects worldwide. Take a look at our initiatives in the communities where we operate: http://bit.ly/Water_projects
    Also we’re working hard to reduce water consumption. We’ve cut water withdrawals per tonne of product by almost 1/3 since 2002.

  11. Chris Perry @ na

    20 Aug 2015 - 11:36 (GMT)

    Cutting water "withdrawals" is entirely different from cutting water CONSUMPTION, and it is consumption that cause scarcity--converting liquid water into water vapour through evaporation and transpiration (ET) this will fall back as rain somewhere, sometime, but Not be available for reuse in downstream areas.

  12. Santhosh Kumar @ Own Company

    18 Apr 2013 - 12:33 (GMT)

    Hope you get some time to read the comments in this post..


  13. Peter Brabeck-Letmathe @ Chairman

    18 Apr 2013 - 14:57 (GMT)

    Dear Santhosh,
    I have read this and it seems people are using it to misrepresent my views on this important issue. Water for survival is a human right and should be free. Here is my latest post: https://www.water-challenge.com/posts/Water-you-need-for-survival-is-a-human-right-some-clarity

  14. Geoff Keey @ consultant

    18 Apr 2013 - 23:47 (GMT)

    The 'tragedy of the commons' is an argument, not for privatisation, but for well regulated management of common resources. Privatisation is no guarantee of sound management in of itself because the owner of a firm may have an incentive to asset strip and incest elsewhere.

    For example, owners of fishing quota may find it beneficial to promote expansion of quota beyond sustainable limits if the income they gain can be re-invested in higher returns than fishing. In New Zealand, the then new private owners of the rail network asset-stripped by refusing to invest in maintaining track and rolling stock which enabled higher dividends but nearkly destroyed the rail network - the rail networ was renationalised to ensure its survival because the public good value of the rail network was not reflected in company behaviour.

    Likewise efficient market pricing does not mean a fair outcome. Efficient market pricing of a scarce resource means that it goes to those who are willing to pay the most for it. For a vital need - such as water - this can mean very unjust outcomes. Furthermore, in a market where entry to the market is limited (such as utilities) there can be a strong incentive to constrain supply in order to lift the price. This has certainly been the case with the New Zealand electricity market.

    All these features of private marets suggest to me that public ownership and control of water is the way to go.

  15. Lorrie Beauchamp @ Journalist-Writer

    19 Apr 2013 - 21:12 (GMT)

    Too funny. Water is not a human "right" any more than is air. Why all this debate over the semantics? Some visionaries understand that humanity has polluted both air and water and some opportunists see that, as a dwindling resource necessary for our survival, water can be controlled like gold and oil and exploited for profit. Can we at least agree that this is what we're talking about? Otherwise, I'll just go empty my free bucket of rain water to brush my teeth with...

  16. Amar Singh @ Individual

    20 Apr 2013 - 13:19 (GMT)

    I agree with Mr. Keey. The conclusion that seems to be implied by Mr. Brabeck that water should be a good to be bought and sold by p r i v a t e companies does not emerge from the 'tragedy of the commons'-argument.
    This seems a rather crucial point to me and I wonder whether there will be an interesting answer to it.

  17. Anders Lindström @ water drinker

    29 Apr 2013 - 00:29 (GMT)

    First of all, I must say that I totally agree with Mr. Peter Brabeck-Letmathe.

    But there is just a small problem with idea private companies owning the water supply. Everybody in the western world is already paying for their clean healthy water. But who are the people that doesn't have access to clean water? Yes, poor people in developing countries.

    Peter, don´t you think it be fair enough if large multi national companies who have made billions in profits because they have taken advantage of these countries resources, polluted the air and ground due to lax law and used their cheap labor, had to pay back with providing clean water to those poor people? You could never do these profits you are making if it wasn't for these imbalances.
    I am a market liberal. I am in all for profits. But not if someone else have to subsidize YOUR profits, which is the case when you can put the pollution and clean up burden on someone else. I.e the people. Try the methods that you use in south east asia to produce food with in Europe if you think they work so well. Nestlé will spend the next 50 years in courtrooms settling suits for polluting the drinking waters with pesticides.

    What will this lead to? Hopefully that MNE's becomes much much more careful when it comes polluting the air/water. Because it will be them who will have to pay to get it clean again. No, don´t say that it´s subcontractor or subcontractors subcontractors responsibility.

    Water should be privatized. There are no free lunches, this time its time for the MNE's to take the bill and clean up the mess they have created.



  18. Jonathan Abra @ writing in a private capacity

    01 May 2013 - 18:11 (GMT)

    The Tragedy of the Commons is a very real issue when it comes to water. It is often said that water is a 'God-given right'. Sadly God doesn't always put it where people are or make it very easy to get at or crystal clear and pathogen-free. He also doesn't, generally speaking, remove the effluent that we generate or treat that to ensure that our watercourses and aquifers aren't polluted. Nowhere in the world is clean water and sanitation provided for free. Water is heavy and expensive to move and treat. Where it is free at point of use that means citizens' tax dollars have been appropriated in subsidizing the collection, treatment and distribution of the raw water, building and maintaining the infrastructure. Governments are not good at running utilities efficiently and there are all sorts of reasons why the mayor running for re-election will build a shiny new library ahead of allocating funds to fixing leaky distribution mains that no-one ever sees.

    There are, of course, horror stories relating to the unfettered privatization of state-owned assets. While it is by no means perfect, the UK model of regulated privately-owned water and wastewater utilities has demonstrated the ability to raise enormous sums on the financial markets for investment in improvements to processes, cleaning up rivers and maintaining supply of top-quality tap water. This is reliant on political will and sound governance.

    As long as water is unregulated and 70% of it is used in the production of food (at least, 70% is the figure quoted for irrigation - much more is used in processing and preparing food) how can the value of it be captured? Until serious investment is made in water infrastructure the poor will be disadvantaged - the rich will develop their own supplies or bribe officials or buy bottled water (don't even get me started on bottled water!). A properly regulated water industry that is incentivised to make a reasonable level of profit is a political good and an economic good - only with a reliable supply of clean water and sanitation will a population thrive, work and grow.

    Lots more to say but given that most folk will have given up by this point I shall leave it at that!

  19. jc freedline @ Mrs.

    13 Jun 2014 - 06:53 (GMT)

    The problem with our water and the availablity of it is not so much the lack of water, but the overpopluation of the planet. Until we get the citizens of the world to understand that we need to stop reproducing at such a ridiculous rate it is not just our water that will be inadequate but every other resource. Having said that however, it is insane to think that our water should be "privitized" no corporation has the right to decide how to distribute water any more than they have the right to air. Harvesting water is not the same as producing it. It is incredibly scary to think that some uber wealthy individual feels they have more right to oneof natures resources than someone who has less. It is the wealthy who use more resources than the poor, they have less regard for what they use since they feel they have the right to more. This entire argument is horrifying. Additionally, I have watched a clip of the nestle ceo speaking about this issue and also talking about things like organic products and gmo products. There have been many studies done that prove that an organically grown product has a higher nutrional content than it's non organic counterpart. And things like the gmo products have already done damage to the fields of farmers who do not grow the gmo products. you may not like scientifc proof that show you as wrong, but your dislike does not mean you are right

  20. Shannon @ None

    18 Jul 2014 - 04:10 (GMT)

    I was directed here by your company when I stated my objection to your statements that water isn't a public right. I don't know whether your views have changed or were simply always misunderstood (drinking water being an understandably sensitive issue) but I have started reading your blog and I must say that I agree with everything mentioned on here that I have read thus far.

    I particularly like how you want the subsidies to affect those who need it most of all which doesn't sound like the predictable: "Why can't I have a slice of the poor man's benefits? Just because I have a private jet doesn't mean I shouldn't get water subsidies."

    As an Australian in one of the driest states in one of the driest countries in the world that has trouble managing the 25 million people here (where other countries manage 200 million in much less space), I have always quietly thought that rising prices are the best way to curtail wasteful uses. I think a certain amount (especially with water) should be safeguarded cheaply but at a certain point it gets a little silly.

    I personally know people who take 20 minute showers which is a little ridiculous. I've even seen someone have a 30 minute shower! (I did thump on the door and tell him the time).

    I know people in Victorian have open irrigation schemes because they get the river water much more cheaply (since it's South Australia at the end of the river who must face the risks of a drought and thus charges higher prices). They wouldn't do that if the price of water went up and then the excess profit was channelled into irrigation subsidies for changing to a better irrigation system.

    I will FaceBook this blog.

  21. Gordon Albright @ http://MaxiProxies.com

    07 Dec 2014 - 23:00 (GMT)

    Thanks for this fantastic post, I am glad I detected this website on yahoo.

  22. arfan @ nestle pakistan

    27 Jan 2015 - 11:48 (GMT)

    hi mr peter.
    i really appreciate the efforts and struggle for saving water and improving its efficiency i am residing in rural Punjab where people need more focus on every things but its very interesting aspect that when i did a local demonstration people used to apply there daily lives .i have observed that many things we need to share like at hoses here no over flow system,at mosque water nalls always remain leakages ,at municipals water supply pools and taker always remain leakage,dairy farms water storage improper ,local schools and hospitals water tanks leakage daily water bath that could be 15 mints etc.i interviewed more than 50 people in my territory that if you would use purchased water than how much you ll used for daily routine life?almost every people said half of my current.then i shared some statics with then in 2014 children causality more than 950 in THARR and desert due to lack of water and food.i requested people if we daily only a jug of water which is very easy and possible,on annual basis we can save tons of safe water and many lives .people agreed and made commitment for improving water efficiency .i ll share my full story with video and picture very soon with you guys,but the main person who turned me for saving water is you MR PETER.
    regard .arfan .pakistan

  23. Virpi Kurkela @ -

    03 Mar 2015 - 19:31 (GMT)


    I learned that you, Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, think that privatizing water is a good idea. I must say that I strongly 100% disagree with that! One could as well say that air should be privatized... Not everything is about money. Nobody can create water, i.e. nobody can own it.

    Best Regards

  24. Virpi Kurkela @ -

    03 Mar 2015 - 19:49 (GMT)

    I think that concepts "human right" and "not a free good" can't describe the same thing, i.e. water in this case. One can't say, for example, that freedom of religion is both a human right and a luxury that you have to pay for, right! You can't put a price tag on any human right! They cancel each other out!

  25. Paul Williamson @ None

    29 Jun 2015 - 14:19 (GMT)

    The language used in this article and by many interviews is designed to is intentionally mislead and confuse.

    Safe cleaning water for sanitation (cleaning, sewerage) and drinking is a human right and it is the responsibility of every human to provide it for all people and all peoples. Swimming pools and car washing is irrelevant and was mentioned only to cloudy the waters of this debate.

    For many in the west bottled water has limited need. Mostly it is clean, treated, safe and sustainable. Plastic bottles needed for "Pure Life" means CO2, oil extraction, pollution and landfill space. Putting a price on water is both immoral and a form of bad governance. Where there is no alternative safe water (state provided, naturally occurring) Nestlé has no moral right to charge for it. Its a question of ethics not finance.

    And lets not even get started on the baby milk that Nestlé sells, which further increases the need for bottled water in poor countries.

    Nestlé have a track record of controversy and serving share holders at all costs. There misuse of the universal resource of water is appalling and Peter Brabeck-Letmathe is a smiling face of economic tyranny.

  26. thendral @ Atlantika Traders

    26 Jan 2016 - 13:14 (GMT)

    Thanks for your details and explanations..I want more information from your side..I Am working in Bisleri Authorised Distributor In Chennai.

  27. Rosheka Faulkner - N/A @ N/A

    03 Mar 2016 - 12:29 (GMT)

    The Right To Clean Water

    Were the words that echoed from every television channel, flowed from the establishment of every radio station, and was stamped on the front of every newspaper:
    “The Government had issued a state of emergency, and people watch in terror at what seems to be the fall of America as a developed nation; the fall of America’s ability to provide its residence one of the basic need of humanity.
    Clean drinking water.
    All of the states on the western side of the Great Plains have had almost all their water supplies polluted by lead poisoning and other microbial agents. Every couple minutes, another person falls at the hands of Cholera and Fluorosis. This is no longer just a Flint, Michigan problem.”

    Imagine that this was what we woke up to one morning. And imagine the pain and devastation that these people would be experiencing if they were in the center of such a crisis. Their life being threatened because of the lack of such a precarious commodity.

    Then imagine that in the midst of such dire conditions, the rest of the country has this valuable resource to the extent where it is being wasted. Where this clean drinking water is being used to water lawns, wash cars, and very literally--flushed down toilets.

    Because as far as they are concerned, they can’t save the world. And as far as they are concerned, a problem is only a problem when it is affecting you or people that you care about.

    It is hard to imagine that anyone would ever do this. That anyone would ever be so carefree when there are life and death situations right under their noses. That they could squander resources that other people are dying without. That they could make multimillion dollar businesses out of something that was given to us by nature to support life and try to sell it to the people who are too poor to afford it, but too in need to do without.

    But the truth is, that's exactly what happens when it comes to clean drinking water.

    Over 1 billion people in the world are lacking clean drinking water. But still most of us waste it and pay way too much just to drink it out of plastic bottles when the very same water runs through our taps. According to NationMaster, in Afghanistan, “only 13% of the population have water readily available and of the 82 million people living in Ethiopia, only 42% have access to clean drinking water. This shortage of water leads to a high infant mortality rate of 77 in 1100 children.” (World Water Day: 10 Places Most In Need Of Water) These people are in serious need of clean water and as people who stress the importance of interdependence and unity, it is our job to help out those who are in need. We cannot sit and watch people die from lack of water and do absolutely nothing about it.

    Because of the lack of water and proper sanitation in many countries, waterborne diseases arise that lead to the loss of many lives. According to research done by Spotlight Science News, “millions of people are affected each year by a range of water-borne diseases including diarrhea, which is responsible for 1.8 million potentially preventable deaths per year, mostly among children under the age of five”(Water Should Be A Human Right). Annually, more people die from the lack of clean water than have died in any war or any other acts of violence. Being aware of this then calls into question our priorities. We spend so much money on protecting ourselves from violent attacks (ex. China spends $132 billion on their war budge while America spends an impressive $660 billion) when the real danger is the lack of clean drinking water. Could it be that we are fighting the wrong battle? Could it be that we have failed to identify the real foe? These are all questions we need to ask ourselves.

    One thing that we fail to recognize is that it is in our best interest to help developing countries by funding clean water projects. The many deaths and diseases that result from being water-poor extend beyond the boundaries of the water-poor areas and eventually becomes our issue. Cholerae, E. cali, Dysentery, among many other diseases are not just problems that are found in water-poor areas. They are quickly becoming the problem of the developing world because the microbial agents of these diseases not not recognize border, and they travel rather quickly. So if we truly want to keep ourselves safe, helping these areas with water issues would be the best way to go.

    Another huge problem that we face is the privatization and owning of water and water resources. In many water-poor countries such as India and countries in the Middle East, influential water companies such as Nestle go in and take water from these areas to sell. This is also an issue that is taking place right in our backyard. The city of Sacramento, California is in its fourth year of a record drought- yet Nestle is still selfishly draining underground aquifers from the area without paying for it, only to sell it back to the same people to gain profit.

    These are the injustices that are happening all over the world and we need to prevent these companies from taking advantage of us and our water supplies just to fatten their pockets. We need to project our political voices and let these companies know that these behaviors will not be tolerated. Among the people who are raising their political voices against water ownership is Maude Barlow, senior advisor on water issues for the General Assembly of the UN, who argued that, " high water rates, cut-offs to the poor, reduced services, broken promises and pollution have been the legacy of privatization”(Water Should Be Human Right).

    Many of these companies make the argument that if they didn't step in to manufacture these waters, it wouldn't be available for people who need it to consume. The problem with that belief is that it is not entirely accurate. Statistics show that majority of bottled water is sold in countries such as the USA, Germany and France where there is not a great need. And the people who most need it do not get it because they cannot afford it. So despite it being more widely available, it still cannot reach those places where there is a need.

    It is my belief that the root of this problem is the entire system of privatizing water. The movie Flow sums it up perfectly, “many of these companies say that they are helping people, but you can't peruse water as a means of making profit for investors while providing what’s best for the people. It just doesn't work”(Flow) Having the people's best interest at heart, especially in very poor countries, and taxing them before they can have water for the sake of making money just doesn't go hand in hand.

    So if companies shouldn't be allowed to take water without paying for it, and sell it back to people, the question then arises: where will fund come from to run these projects? How can we pay for digging wells, building pipelines, and making sure that water is clean? This is not exactly a free process. The answer to that is: the community as a whole would have to bear those expenses. This is where outside charity should come in and help those areas that are in need of assistance. This is also where the Board of Water Production should be channeling their funds.

    Through my interview with Ms Holzer, an AP Environmental Science teacher at Chatham High School, and my knowledge of the movie Flow, I picked up on something very interesting. The World Bank is notorious for investing millions of dollars on a single project, many times in on the part of big business. The problem with that approach is that only one area is being affected by such a project. Many of these water problems don’t require million dollar fixes. Many of them require simple things such as building wells. If the World Bank would invest in little projects all over the world, then we would be getting closer to our goal of ensuring safe drinking water for all humanity.

    More and more, people are looking into this issue of water scarcity in many different countries. Based on my survey of high school seniors at Chatham High School in NJ, I am able to conclude that people are passionate about water scarcity. Yearly, charities and lobby groups are coming together to speak against water injustices and find programs that help provide relief for those people in need.

    Unfortunately however, my survey shows that not many people are knowledgeable about this condition. If we truly want to put an end to this water scarcity problem, it is important for us to get educated so we can have a say in what takes place. Just as we have the right to life, we should have the right to those things that make life possible. Every last human being on the face of this earth should have the right to clean drinking water and it is our duty to make sure that we do our part in making clean water available to all people.

  28. Water Purification Systems - Marketer @ https://www.pureitwater.com/IN/pureit-water-purifiers/pureit-marvella-ro-slim-water-purifier

    16 Jun 2016 - 06:16 (GMT)

    This is so true that water is human right. Water is important for everyone. Without water no one in this earth can be alive.
    I think everyone of us try to make extra efforts to save water. As we can see all around us , there is always a scarcity of water. So it is important to save water.
    Clean water is also another big issue that is rising day by day.
    In developing countries, industrialization, urbanization, and population growth create a greater need for clean water. However, the resulting usage and pollution from garbage, chemicals, and manufacturing waste contribute to the shortage of its availability.
    I recommend everyone to save water and drink only pure water.

  29. Water Purification Systems - Marketer @ https://www.pureitwater.com/IN/pureit-water-purifiers/pureit-marvella-ro-slim-water-purifier

    16 Jun 2016 - 06:26 (GMT)

    This is so true that water is human right. Water is important for everyone. Without water no one in this earth can be alive.
    I think everyone of us try to make extra efforts to save water. As we can see all around us , there is always a scarcity of water. So it is important to save water.
    Clean water is also another big issue that is rising day by day.
    In developing countries, industrialization, urbanization, and population growth create a greater need for clean water. However, the resulting usage and pollution from garbage, chemicals, and manufacturing waste contribute to the shortage of its availability.
    I recommend everyone to save water and drink only pure water.

  30. Norbert Kausen C.D. @ CAF Retired

    07 Sep 2016 - 16:45 (GMT)

    There is no such thing as "fair" price!!! No company has the right to gain control over water, then use it as a tool to extort money from the people who NEED water to survive!! Water is NOT a commodity but rather a necessity of life as determined under international law! Corporations are NOT the stewards of our precious resource... they are only in it for the money! What we currently pay for is the distribution of this resource through our utility companies which are responsible for cleaning and maintenance of clean accessible water... not for the water itself! To suggest that water should be declared a commodity as it can be better controlled by corporations is both disingenuous and a total fraud!Corporations do NOT manufacture water, however, as has been stated, the major percentage of water is used... and abused.... by corporations, with only a nominal amount of water going to the consumer for use to survive! One need only look at the water war in Cochabamba, Bolivia, to understand the corporate position on water and their control over it! It has correctly been stated that there will be wars fought over water... but it should be understood that there will be war alright... between corporations and their political puppets versus the people who need water to survive!

  31. jorge sciglianoi - Purificadores de agua @ santos dumont 2475

    11 Sep 2016 - 00:44 (GMT)

    Somos fabricantes de ablandadores de agua, osmosis inversa y purificadores de agua. http://www.equiposymecanismos.com.ar

  32. jorge scigliano - manager @ santos dumont 2475

    11 Sep 2016 - 00:45 (GMT)

    Somos fabricantes de ablandadores de agua, osmosis inversa y purificadores de agua. http://www.equiposymecanismos.com.ar

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