Envrionmental Science

1. This question should be addressed to Eric Trout

Private water systems have been around since the industrial revolution in the nineteenth century. This revolution pushed privatization to the forefront along with governments inability to provide clean sources of water supply. (Greiner, 2016). These private endeavors would start out small but through the years this sector has seen a large amount of growth. The clean water act kick started a need for this privatization of water facilities. But is this really a good thing?

As we learned in one of our earlier chapters the world’s population is definitely not getting any smaller. Humans are multiplying at an alarming rate. It is possible to imagine that in the future water will become more scarce. According to (Withcott & Laposata. 2012 p. 264) “Increased withdrawal of fresh water can lead to shortages, and resource scarcity can lead to conflict. Many predict that waters role in regional conflicts will increase as human population continues to grow and climate change alters precipitation patterns.” I think privatization of our water supplies are a bad idea. If times begin to get hard or a conflict in an area affects water supply, I have doubts that a private company will have the well being of the people in mind. I would venture to say that greed would take over in the future. And prices of water would skyrocket as demand for water went up. But what about environmental injustice? Is it possible that lower income area would be impacted more than others. According to (Greiner, 2016) “findings lend support to the notion that, in many instances, water utility privatization can be understood as a form of environmental injustice, where particular communities are placed at a greater risk of experiencing the often negative outcomes found to be associated with such privatization.

So after doing some research on the subject and looking at where I believe our future is headed I don’t think giving private companies control over our water is a good idea. I think greed, self preservation and political views would cloud correct judgement for our water supplies.

References

Greiner, P. T. (2016). Social Drivers of Water Utility Privatization in the United States: An Examination of the Presence of Variegated Neoliberal Strategies in the Water Utility Sector. Rural Sociology, 81(3), 387-406. doi:10.1111/ruso.12099

Withcott, J. & Laposata, M. (2012). Essential environment: The science behind the stories (4th ed). Boston: Pearson

2. This question should be addressed to Shaun Heath

Water is critical to the survival of all living things. While humans can survive weeks without food, we can only survive a few short days without water. For something that is crucial to all of us, it is difficult to imagine how one may not have access to safe and clean drinking water. Waterborne disease remains a concern for many nations, especially those with extreme levels of poverty. Diseases such as cholera are uncommon in the United States but claim the lives of many in developing nations. Galiana, Gertlet, and Schargrodsky note in their article that, “In Argentina, diarrhea, septicemia, and gastrointestinal infections are three of the top 10 causes of death for children under 5” (p.85). They also state that nearly 3 million children die each year worldwide from diseases that are linked to contaminated water supplies (2005). In their article, they looked at mortality rates of children in Argentina before and after water supplies were privatized. They found that, especially in the poorest areas of the country, child mortality rates dropped substantially after the privatization of water.

The lack of availability of clean drinking water is even harder to imagine within the United States. However, the people living in Flint, Michigan experienced this first hand. In 2014, the city of Flint was forced by the state to switch their water supply from Lake Huron to the Flint River in an attempt to save money. This switch caused much concern for the citizens as the water color, taste, and smell changed drastically. What wasn’t seen, however, were the harmful chemicals and bacteria that were now present in the water supply. Hanna-Attisha et al. noted that after switching water sources, increased levels of lead were present in children’s blood. This is due to the fact that many of the water pipes in the area were made of lead and the water from the river was not treated properly (2016). It is cases such as these that lead me to believe that there is potential good to come of the privatization of water. This is especially true in areas where local governments cannot support appropriate treatment to ensure safe drinking water. However, I believe privatization comes with the risk of large companies taking advantage of their customers who are fully reliant on this resource.

References:

Galiani, S., Gertler, P., & Schargrodsky, E. (2005). Water for Life: The Impact of the Privatization of Water Services on Child Mortality. Journal Of Political Economy, 113(1), 83-120.

Hanna-Attisha, M., LaChance, J., Casey Sadler, R., & Champney Schnepp, A. (2016). Elevated Blood Lead Levels in Children Associated With the Flint Drinking Water Crisis: A Spatial Analysis of Risk and Public Health Response. American Journal Of Public Health, 106(2), 283-290. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2015.303003

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