The Politics of Water

I first learned of the federal regulations on water when I was a homeowner living on Mt. Hood and using a community water system. Our spectacularly beautiful, clear, cold water came down the hill from the Huckleberry Wilderness area, and it tasted fabulous. As a community water system, we were required to have filtration in place, as well as regular testing.

It was always interesting to go to water board meetings, and to hear from our hired engineer how our system – we decided on the cheapest form of filtration, a sandbag arrangement – was working, and what the test results showed. It was equally interesting to learn that, thanks to our private system, we controlled our urban growth.  A nearby undeveloped lot had been sold to an unsuspecting buyer who dreamed of building a home in our idyllic setting on the Salmon River. But when she petitioned the water board to allow her to join, the group denied her request.

We owned the gold.

Since that experience, I have been thinking about water in terms of politics.  The privatization of water and sewage services is indeed a fascinating story of power and oppression.

Read more on this topic, including a university scholar’s argument against the privatization of water, an IPS story about who controls the water in South America , and particularly disturbing, what one global corporation is doing to control the water rights of  unsuspecting communities around the world.

“Water promises to be to the 21st century what oil was to the 20th century: the precious commodity that determines the wealth of nations”
– Fortune Magazine, May 2000

I admit I was angry after doing the research on global water politics. But shortly afterward I found myself enjoying a walk in the Bull Run Watershed. I’d been on the list to do this hike for three years and was finally getting around to it. As I walked, I kept thinking, we are so lucky.  SO, SO lucky. Our publicly-owned watershed is now in the process of conservation, thanks to the efforts of many full-time activists. For more information about the conservation of the Bull Run Watershed, visit Portland Online. And don’t forget to give thanks next time you pay your Portland water bill.

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