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The Price of Thirst

The Price of Thirst: Global Water Inequality and the Coming Chaos

Karen Piper
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 296
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  • Book Info
    The Price of Thirst
    Book Description:

    "There's Money in Thirst," reads a headline in the New York Times. The CEO of Nestlé, purveyor of bottled water, heartily agrees. It is important to give water a market value, he says in a promotional video, so "we're all aware that it has a price." But for those who have no access to clean water, a fifth of the world's population, the price is thirst. This is the frightening landscape that Karen Piper conducts us through inThe Price of Thirst-one where thirst is political, drought is a business opportunity, and more and more of our most necessary natural resource is controlled by multinational corporations.

    In visits to the hot spots of water scarcity and the hotshots in water finance, Piper shows us what happens when global businesses with mafia-like powers buy up the water supply and turn off the taps of people who cannot pay: border disputes between Iraq and Turkey, a "revolution of the thirsty" in Egypt, street fights in Greece, an apartheid of water rights in South Africa.The Price of Thirsttakes us to Chile, the first nation to privatize 100 percent of its water supplies, creating a crushing monopoly instead of a thriving free market in water; to New Delhi, where the sacred waters of the Ganges are being diverted to a private water treatment plant, fomenting unrest; and to Iraq, where the U.S.-mandated privatization of water resources destroyed by our military is further destabilizing the volatile region. And in our own backyard, where these same corporations are quietly buying up water supplies, Piper reveals how "water banking" is drying up California farms in favor of urban sprawl and private towns.

    The product of seven years of investigation across six continents and a dozen countries, and scores of interviews with CEOs, activists, environmentalists, and climate change specialists,The Price of Thirstpaints a harrowing picture of a world out of balance, with the distance between the haves and have-nots of water inexorably widening and the coming crisis moving ever closer.

    eISBN: 978-1-4529-4371-8
    Subjects: Population Studies, Environmental Science, Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. INTRODUCTION: The Colonial Origins of Global Water Inequality
    (pp. 1-38)

    Bedouin tents fluttered in the breeze, looking like a caravan stop in the African Sahara. The tents were large and spacious inside, with traditional Moroccan symbols painted on the exteriors. Next to them, a safari-style jeep was parked adjacent to a well in the desert sand. Behind the tents, the impressive three-story Grand Palace sported white columns and a wall of windows, and alongside this was the Palace of Europe. For a moment, I thought I was in a nineteenth-century French colonial city in North Africa. Or I might have been at the French Colonial Exposition of 1906, which showcased...

  5. Part I. Wheeling and Dealing Water in the Americas

    • ONE Water Hoarding in a California Drought
      (pp. 41-72)

      I grew up in southern california, in a part of the country hit by the nation’s worst dust storms, deadly storms full of heavy metals that blow from dry Owens Lake. Studies have shown that I will not live as long as others because of this. I have accepted this, while at the same time hoping that these studies are wrong. Where I grew up, the city of Los Angeles diverted water away from Owens Lake, slowly draining it starting in 1913. It took more than ten years for the lake to dry up and turn into a toxic dust...

    • TWO How a Coup Opened Chile’s Water Markets
      (pp. 73-100)

      In chile, September 11 has long been commemorated as the anniversary date of a national tragedy. “Some Chileans were upset that the World Trade Center attack happened onourday,” Patagonian river-rafting guide Rolando told me, “though mainly it just deepened our sense of tragedy.” We were sitting beside the aquamarine Baker River in northern Patagonia, sharing a localyerba matetea from a gourd with a stainless steel straw, when Rolando told me how his mother had been brutally tortured following the coup by General Augusto Pinochet on September 11, 1973. Now on each September 11, thousands flock to...

  6. Part II. Postcolonial Water Insurgencies

    • THREE South Africa’s Water Apartheid
      (pp. 103-128)

      Nelson mandela, during his presidential inaugural address, famously said, “Let there be work, bread, water, and salt for all.” While Pinochet’s government turned Chile’s water into private property for electric and mining interests, President Mandela chose to do exactly the opposite, enshrining the right to water as a public good in the new South African government’s constitution. In 1996, South Africa became the first nation in the world to include in its constitution the mandate that “everyone has the right” to “sufficient food and water.” Access to water came to symbolize the end of forty-six years of brutal segregation under...

    • FOUR Mother Ganga Is Not for Sale
      (pp. 129-160)

      High in the indian himalayas, a battle played out between a seventy-nine-year-old man and the company that was going to flood his hometown, Tehri. A wiry, tall man at six feet, six inches, with a white beard and sparkling blue eyes, Sunderlal Bahuguna once fought against the British, inspired by Gandhi at age thirteen. But in the 1990s, his battle was against a dam and aqueduct that would divert the water of the Ganges River 121 miles south to Delhi, where it would end up in a treatment plant run by Suez. Bahuguna sat at the dam site and protested...

  7. Part III. Water Wars in the Middle East

    • FIVE A Revolution of the Thirsty in Egypt
      (pp. 163-174)

      “Welcome to the greener side of life” beckoned the billboard on Cairo’s Ring Road. The sign showed a man in a jaunty hat teeing off on a verdant golf course flowing into the horizon. I was stuck in traffic, breathing that mix of Saharan dust and pollution also known as “air,” so I could see the appeal. Somewhere outside the city, in a gated community called Allegria—Italian for “cheerfulness”—a greener life awaited. “Over 80% of Allegria’s land is dedicated to green and public spaces,” boasts the developer’s brochure, “meaning you’ll never lose the peace and tranquility which goes...

    • SIX Targeting Iraq’s Water
      (pp. 175-204)

      “That was where they dumped the bodies,”Forbeswriter Melik Kaylan told me, referring to a concrete reservoir where Saddam Hussein’s army hid people they had killed. I had just come from that remote reservoir and was surprised that Melik knew of it. By then, Saddam had been dead for four years, and the tank was being used as a storage system for Ifraz water treatment plant. “Yes, I was told there were lots of dead bodies down there,” he nodded enthusiastically as if discussing lost treasure. As a war correspondent working out of Baghdad for more than five years,...

  8. CONCLUSION: Imagining a Water-Secure World
    (pp. 205-232)

    As i traveled the world investigating its water problems, I saw unrest and heartbreak wherever I went, but the only place I suffered physical harm was in the United States. It was at the 2009 G-20 Summit in Pittsburgh, where the heads of the Group of 20, the world’s twenty wealthiest countries, were convening. At these annual meetings, presidents and prime ministers meet with heads of the World Bank, IMF, WTO, and United Nations to set financial policy for the world. A few months after the G-20 meeting that year, the U.N. General Assembly would vote on a resolution that...

  9. NOTES
    (pp. 233-274)
    (pp. 275-276)
  11. INDEX
    (pp. 277-290)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 291-291)