Water is essential for the survival of mankind. “Water, not unlike religion and ideology, has the power to move millions of people. Since the very birth of human civilization, people have moved to settle close to water. People move when there is too little of it; people move when there is too much of it. People ﬁght over it. And everybody, everywhere and every day, needs it.” (Draper). As our environment changes, population grows, and natural resources are consumed, water is quickly becoming a commodity that will not be able to meet the demand of consumers. The principal question then becomes, “Who should control our water supply?” Currently there is much debate on how to protect and preserve this precious commodity. In a Newsweek article, The New Oil, Jeneen Interlandi discusses the possibilities of privatizing Americas freshwater. In this article, Goldman Sachs states tha “global water consumption is doubling every 20 years, and the United Nations expects demand to outstrip supply by more than 30 percent come 2040.” It goes on to discuss the role that government plays overseeing and regulating our water supply, and its inability to continue to invest dollars that protect the infrastructure supplying access to our citizens. Interlandi provides examples of foreign countries, as well as American states, which have opted to allow for the privatization of water supplies and the unique challenges that occur when a free market profits from a basic human right: access to water. Shifting water into the market place creates a difficult balancing act. (Interlandi). America must protect our most precious natural resource while maintaining access, quality, and promoting conservation. Public and private industries will need to work together to alleviate disparities, address access issues, and maintain and improve public health standards. Public or municipal water companies exist when “a governmental agency controls, regulates, and administers the allocation of source water according to established laws.” (Draper). One of the pros of government controlling the water supply is that they are more focused on protecting the greater good of society as a whole and not on private profits. Government is also more interested in addressing environmental needs of individual municipalities, both now and in the future. Also, when it comes to making decisions on water, they try to be as fair as possible. Another advantage of governmental administration is the power to enforce rules and impose taxes to help improve and protect valuable water resources. Currently governmental oversight guarantees that transfer of water rights does not significantly damage river basins and planning and management, thus protecting the environment. Although government run agencies may not embrace innovation as much as a private companies, “governmental agencies may be the only organization positioned to provide the consistent and long-term funding to achieve this vision.” (Daigger).
Although the government run agencies have certain strengths and benefits, there are also significant issues with how they manage our current water supply. One of the biggest struggles is the quality of the marketplace. Ensuring that all citizens have access to water can lead to decreased quality; as the water infrastructure ages and investments are not made to update and maintain the pipes, pumps, and treatment plants. “When there are breakdowns in infrastructure, it often involves distribution systems. Sometimes it’s because localities can’t afford to tackle their backlog of aging pipelines”. (Peterson) Another disadvantage of government oversight is excessive legislation or regulation that can severely restrict innovation and creativity. In some ways, due to the insistence on universal access to water, there is not a significant focus on finding