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November, 2004  CURRENTS
News from the Water for All Campaign

VICTORY! Uruguay bans water privatization
Uruguay is trailblazing the water front.  On Oct. 31, a solid majority
of citizens voted in favor of a referendum titled Constitutional Water
Reform in Defense of Water, which would change the constitution to
guarantee that water, as a natural resource and human right, should
remain a public good out of the reach of large profit-seeking
corporations.  More than 62 percent of the population supported the
reform and rejected water privatization.  The National Commission in
Defense of Water and Life (CNDAV), a network of social and political
organizations created in 2002 as a response to the developing
relationship between the Uruguayan government and the International
Monetary Fund, paved the way to success on this referendum.  When a
Letter of Intent was signed between the two entities, the people of
Uruguay realized that all of their water and sanitation services could
be privatized.  They chose to fight back.  With the victory of this
referendum, access to drinkable water and sanitation should be
guaranteed to the whole population as a result of a sustainable and
participative public administration.

Great Lakes fire sale
Why are the governors of eight states and the premiers of two Canadian
provinces signing off on an agreement that would allow water to be
diverted from the basin (even though a federal law and current
international agreements forbid them to do so)?  There are reasons,
well, rationales, aplenty. Some of the most credible have to do with
concerns that if the states and provinces don't act, a wheeler dealer
water baron will take them to a bidness friendly court, get a bidness
friendly decision, and pump pump pump the Great Lakes for bottling, or
to divert to dry communities westward.  Ergo, the rationalization
continues, better to have some firm rules in place to "regulate" the
commodification of 20 percent of the world's freshwater.  Welcome to
Great Lakes Annex Proposal.  The proposal needs work, and contains
problems which include but are by no means limited to: It forges ahead
without the benefit of a baseline study of how much demand is being
placed on the Lakes already; it establishes some squirrelly standard
whereby you can take water from the lake if you also make
to the resource, which is warily viewed as translating to cold hard
cash; and the whole deal smacks of treating the Lakes as a commodity
be regulated, not a public trust to be protected and cherished.  The
governors and premiers tentatively plan to sign the agreement this
spring. A 90 day public comment period closed in October. This is
way too fast.  Fortunately, folks who want to protect the Lakes,
including the Council of Canadians and Sweetwater Alliance, are
organizing to fight the Annex, and will be placing increasing pressure
on states and provinces to pull back and inject a little reason into
this unreasonable proposal, before it's too late. Watch this space.

New Global Treaty: Right to Water
In late October, some of the groups interested in advocating for a
global framework convention on the right to water met in Berlin to
discuss initiating an inclusive process to create an international
document on the right to water.  One option for this framework is a
United Nations treaty, which was also advocated unanimously by the
society organizations that participated in the People's World Water
Forum in Delhi, India in January 2004.  The groups envision this
being based on the International Bill of Human Rights.  We are
citizens' organizations interested in the treaty idea to join the
effort. We have established a listserv to discuss creating a process
engaging social movements in
exploring the possibilities for a treaty. To join, send an e mail to Also, we are planning an event at the World Social
Forum in Porto Alegre, Brazil, in January 2005, to discuss and get

Caution: Green Cross promoting public-private partnerships
Also at the Berlin meeting, Public Citizen learned more about Green
Cross' promotion of a U.N. treaty on the right to water.  Green Cross
an international organization, currently run by Mikhail Gorbachev,
a stated mission of helping to "ensure a just, sustainable and secure
future for all by fostering a value shift and cultivating a new sense
global interdependence and shared responsibility in humanity's
relationship with nature."  They've recently drafted a set of
on the right to water, which you can read here:
(pay attention to Article 10: Financing of the Water Sector).  But
framework and the process by which it has been drafted are
Their convention language would incorporate into the international
framework the commodification of water and it would encode
privatization.  Equally serious is the lack of civil society
participation in the development of the Green Cross convention.  Given
the active involvement of grassroots groups around the world on the
right to water at many international meetings in the past several
we believe it is necessary to develop such an important legal text
the consultation and involvement of the diverse social movements.

Setting the agenda: 2nd Alternative World Water Forum in March 2005
Water for All has been asked to act as an advisory group to the 2005
Alternative World Water Forum which will take place March 17-20 in
Geneva.  The Forum's key objective is to further develop and promote
institutions' public policies to provide access to potable water for
human beings and to support water management in a democratic and
sustainable manner.  The forum will be split into thematic discussions
focusing on the human right to water, water as a common good,
of public utilities, and active citizen participation.  A number of
workshops have been proposed and cultural events will take place
throughout Geneva. Organizers are planning to sponsor 75 participants
from the Global South to create equal opportunities for participation.
To request more information and sponsorship, contact  You can find more information on in German, French, Italian, English, Spanish
and Portuguese.

Third International Women and Water Conference
This year's conference will be held in Dehradun, India, on Feb. 25 28,
2005.  There will be presentations by activists, including Vandana
Shiva, workshops, skill development, and time to share networks and
strategies.  This conference is being sponsored by CRABGRASS, a San
Francisco-based organization (  The conference will
concentrate on building relationships across the boundaries of culture
and geography.  There are 25 places for women of North America.
You pay your own travel (estimated at $1200) and housing (ranging from
$50 $150) plus $400 conference fee.  For further contact call
at (415) 861 5121 or email

Legislative Update: The clean water and drinking water State Revolving
Funds (SRFs) are federal grants used by states to loan money to local
governments for wastewater and drinking water projects that help
localities meet water quality standards.  The SRFs help reduce
on municipalities to consider privatization as a way to address water
infrastructure needs. In its 2005 VA-HUD Appropriations bill, the
allocated $850 million to the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF)
for wastewater projects - 40% less than in 2004.  The Senate
Appropriations Committee allocated $1.35 billion to the CWSRF, but the
bill has not yet been voted on in the full Senate.  The Senate VA-HUD
bill is likely to be wrapped into a huge omnibus spending bill in the
Senate during the lame duck session this week.

Bottled Up and Tapped Out:
(Please e-mail or call us if you'd like brochures for local events.)

Juliette Beck
California Campaign Director
Water for All
Public Citizen
510-663-0888 ext. 101
For updates and info, contact scott at planttrees dot org.