Blue Convenant: Maude Barlow

At the universal scale, swathes of water visually distinguish Earth as the blue planet. At the molecular scale, water is a significant part of living beings; life on Earth originated from and is supported by natural water systems. For all its life-giving properties, is water a need or a right? Who controls access to water? Who is responsible for safeguarding water systems? Maude Barlow poses – and answers – these questions, describing how powerful corporations, state and international institutions trade on water access. Examples alarm. In 1992, the UN agreed with the World Bank and water companies that the ‘economic value’ of water justified privatised water services for the global South.

In Australia, where the government has recently purchased $2.9 billion worth of water rights from farmers, the trade is between drinking water and agricultural resource. In drought, dense and diseased zones, the fundamental need for water has contributed to competition ripe for conflict. Maude Barlow’s call for a Blue Covenant is a solution: the codification of water as a human right, thereby protecting water from its commodification as a market product.