Open Access Senior Thesis
Bachelor of Arts
© 2012 Eliana Rieders
Wars fought over oil have characterized the latter half of the past century, the repercussions of which have been felt in every corner of the globe. Although war remains a constant, attention is transitioning away from oil to another natural resource. As we move through the 21st century, water wars are now at the forefront of global conflicts. Fighting over access to this vital resource is nothing new. Allen Snitow, a documentary filmmaker and journalist claims: “For thousands of years, the conflicts between towns and countries have been defined by the battle over who gets to use the stream. The word rival and river have the same root.”1 Disputes over access to water have been inevitable because of human’s dependence on this natural resource for sustenance. The lack of a substitution for water makes the world water crisis a threat requiring immediate attention and innovative solutions.
The assumed responsibility of the government to provide sustainable solutions has proven ineffective in its failure to protect the human right to water. As a world water crisis, there is a need for a more cohesive management approach. Identifying and implementing effective and equitable approaches to water management is a highly debated subject across many disciplines. A common approach to combating issues of access to potable water involves the private sector and its reliance on the market. Alternatively, some advocate for treating water as a public or community good to avoid the commodification of an essential resource. Through various examples and a fleshed out case study, I illustrate how solutions to the water crisis are not determined by theoretical frameworks, but are shaped by the viability of the approaches in a given region. The factors that influence the feasibility of an approach include: the availability of water resources and other geographical or environmental circumstances; the political stability or corruption within the government; the degree of established infrastructure; determination of who the government is responsible for providing water services to; and the specific cultural needs of different groups. By analyzing the aforementioned theoretical perspectives on water management through a lens that considers each of these factors, I attempt to identify and analyze the context for which these approaches are appropriate and effective in providing equitable access to clean water. The political, economic, cultural and geographical contexts of a region are critical in considering how to best alleviate issues of access to potable water. In addition, I argue that across all of these diverse contexts in which we identify water access issues, it is invariably necessary to treat water as a public good in order to protect the human right to water.
1 Alan Snitow, Deborah Kaufman, and Michael Fox, Thirst: Fighting the corporate theft of our water, (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2007), 3.
Rieders, Eliana, "Our Thirsty World: Contextualized Responses to the World Water Crisis" (2012). Pitzer Senior Theses. 26.