In the Matter of Water

by David G. Yurth Ph.D.

Next to Oxygen, no other substance is more critical to human survival than water. Today we are witnessing the emergence of critical shortages in sustainable supplies of potable drinking water. The evidence that such shortages are becoming a permanent fixture in our lives is provided by the increasing sums being invested in owning and controlling the sources of potable water by multi-national conglomerates. The race for control of potable water supplies has begun in earnest.  

Mankind has devised ways to contaminate the planet which were never anticipated by the processes of natural selection. Industrial contaminants, radioactive wastes, synthetic fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides, genetically engineered plant strains, airborne emissions such as automobile exhaust and a long, horrifying list of pollutants have seeped into virtually every source of water around the planet. 

If we have learned nothing else, we can be certain that no general initiative to mitigate, minimize or remediate either the sources or consequences of current practices by the industrialized nations can reasonably be expected until the pandemic created by our collective contamination of the planet threatens life itself. So many short term agendas are being served by creating, exacerbating and profiting from this set of problems that no amount of public consensus will effectively alter this course. We, in the words of the poet, become the masters of our own destruction. We are inexorably poisoning ourselves to the point of extinction. 

We have solutions for all these problems, speaking in purely technical terms. Capital is not available to support broad-based technological development of applicable systems because (1) they are not "cost effective," and (2) the political incentives are insufficient to justify upsetting current practices. In short, there as yet remains too little threat to our own interests to motivate proactive attention to resolving the underlying causes.  

What has to happen to alter this trend? My assessment is that little public attention will be drawn to this issue until the multi-national corporations are convinced they have established a firm control over the critical sources of supply, the technologies needed to effectively treat publicly available water supplies, and the geo-political relationships needed to create an effective multi-national cartel. Over the next 50 years I believe we will witness the sale of water as a commodity in increasingly short supply. Availability will be controlled and prices will soar irresistibly because while we may be able to survive without oil, we cannot survive without potable water. Mankind is in the process of becoming enslaved to the private agendas of those who are inexorably acquiring control of increasingly limited sources of supply of this precious commodity. We have no one to blame but ourselves.

How can this be prevented ? It cannot.

This is already happening.