This month, Paige’s pick is “Whose Water is it, Anyway? Taking Water Protection into Public Hands” by Canadian author, Maude Barlow. I picked up this book while browsing a small bookstore in Toronto. As a water resource science student, any book on water issues is of interest to me. Maude’s name had come up in some of my classes and I thought of her of somewhat of an inspiration despite only knowing what had been talked about in class. The title caught my attention and immediately had me question rights about water and where our water comes from. To my surprise, the copy of the book was even signed! I bought the book and went home with good intentions to read it, but life got in the way and the book wound up sitting on my bookcase. I finally got around to reading it this past month.
This book is very topical in today’s world. Water is increasingly becoming a scarce resource. Although we often take water as a limitless resource here in Canada, the reality is far from the truth. Maude dives deep into the politics surrounding water rights. The UN declares access to water as a human right. Maude talks about the topic of water as a commodity. She discusses the impacts of bottled water, privatized water utilities, water trading, and virtual water. One initiative that Maude is apart of and talks about in the book is the concept of Blue Communities. The Blue Communities project focuses on three core values: “access to clean, drinkable water is a human right; that municipal and community water will be held in public hands, and that single-use plastic water bottles will not be available in public spaces.” (Maude, 2017).
The Blue Communities project may sound familiar, and that’s because on March 22 in 2015, Thunder Bay became a Blue Community. Thunder Bay’s location on the north shore of Lake Superior leaves the city as an excellent example for other cities located on bodies of water to take action and protect water.
This book makes you stop and think. It is inspiring to hear about cities globally standing up to big corporations such as Nestle to protect their local water resources. Yet at the same time, this book is also frustrating. It makes you wonder how things became so corrupted in the first place. There are stories about the struggles of communities around the world that are fighting daily to access clean water. One example is from the island of Fiji, known for its recognizable Fiji Water. The luxury water bottle brand may leave people to believe that all water in Fiji is comparable to the type of water found in its water bottles, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. The majority of Fiji residents consume tap water which is carried in broken and contaminated pipes that is often full of typhoid and other gastroenteritis bacteria that leave often the people of Fiji sick from the infection.
This book will leave you feeling angry and frustrated but also inspired and hopeful. Maude Barlow touches on many concerns over water in this relatively short book. One premise that Maude introduces at the beginning of the book is the power of local action and this book is a blueprint for communities and people around the world to take action today to help protect water.