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Privatizing Water Sources

Water is increasingly becoming a very important commodity, the depletion of fresh water sources around the globe has led to the belief that the next world war may be over fresh water. This may seem an exaggeration, however, the impression of the gravity is no hyperbole.

There is a big debate as to whether water should be privatized and thus not be controlled by government. For purposes of this article, the main question is whether owners of land must also be the legal owners of all water and water sources within their land. I would like to submit that from an environmental management point of view, this should not be the case.

The problem with having no governmental control over an important environmental medium such as water is that the potential for an environmental disaster is greater than when government has some power to intervene where water usage is concerned.

Take for instance if a landowner decided to sell water from his land to an adjacent mine or factory that uses large amounts of water for its operations. The fact that government has no control over the water means the landowner can sell the water till the very last drop is spent, this can however have disastrous environmental consequences. Water literally feeds the land around it, without water some plant species would disappear. Moreover, all the animal species that depend on the water as part of their diet would also disappear.

It is submitted that a balanced approach is needed, absolute control by the government is also not desirable. Government needs to develop a policy sensitive to its legal subjects’ autonomy over their property, such autonomy must be limited though.

Where water privatization is concerned, the limitations should be based on a reasonable standard which would regulate the usage of water for legitimate purposes and in a manner sensitive to the environment within which such water is found.

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