Category Archives: Water

Dakota protesters regroup, plot resistance to other pipelines

Sat Feb 25, 2017

A man warms up by a fire in Sacred Stone camp, one of the few remaining camps protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline in Cannon Ball, North Dakota, U.S., February 24, 2017. REUTERS/Stephen Yang

By Terray Sylvester | CANNON BALL, N.D.

Opponents of the Dakota Access Pipeline who were pushed out of their protest camp this week have vowed to keep up efforts to stop the multibillion-dollar project and take the fight to other pipelines as well.

The Oceti Sakowin camp in Cannon Ball, North Dakota, was cleared by law enforcement on Thursday and almost 50 people, many of them Native Americans and environmental activists, were arrested.

The number of demonstrators had dwindled from the thousands who poured into the camp starting in August to oppose the pipeline that critics say threatens the water resources and sacred land of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. The tribe has said it intends to fight the pipeline in court.

The 1,170-mile (1,885 km) line, built by Energy Transfer Partners LP, will move crude from the shale oilfields of North Dakota to Illinois en route to the Gulf of Mexico, where many U.S. refineries are located.

Tonya Olsen, 46, an Ihanktonwan Sioux from Sioux Falls, South Dakota, who had lived at the camp for 3-1/2 months, said she was saddened by the eviction but proud of the protesters.

She has moved to another nearby camp on Standing Rock Sioux Tribe reservation land, across the Cannon Ball River.

“A lot of people will take what they’ve learned from this movement and take it to another one,” Olsen said. She may join a protest if one forms against the Keystone XL pipeline near the Lower Brulé Sioux Reservation in South Dakota, she added.

Tom Goldtooth, a protest leader and executive director of the Indigenous Environmental Network, said the demonstrators’ hearts were not defeated.

“The closing of the camp is not the end of a movement or fight, it is a new beginning,” Goldtooth said in a statement on Thursday. “They cannot extinguish the fire that Standing Rock started.”

Many hope their fight against the project will spur similar protests targeting pipelines across the United States and Canada, particularly those routed near Native American land.

“The embers are going to be carried all over the place,” said Forest Borie, 34, a protester from Tijuana, Mexico, who spent four months in North Dakota.

“This is going to be a revolutionary year,” he added.


Borie wants to go next to Canada to help the Unist’ot’en Native American Tribe in their long-running opposition to pipelines in British Columbia.

Energy Transfer Partners, the Dallas-based company constructing the Dakota Access pipeline, is already facing pushback from a diverse base of opposition in Louisiana, where it is planning to expand its Bayou Bridge pipeline.

Other projects mentioned by protesters as possible next stops include the Sabal Trail pipeline being built to transport natural gas from eastern Alabama to central Florida, and Energy Transfer Partners’ Trans-Pecos in West Texas. Sabal Trail is a joint project of Spectra Energy Corp, NextEra Energy Inc and Duke Energy Corp.

Another protest is focused on Plains All American Pipeline’s Diamond Pipeline, which will run from Cushing, Oklahoma, to Valero Energy Corp’s Memphis refinery in Tennessee.

Anthony Gazotti, 47, from Denver, said he will stay on reservation land until he is forced out. Despite construction resuming on the Dakota pipeline, he said the protest was a success because it had raised awareness of pipeline issues nationwide.

“It’s never been about just stopping that pipeline,” he said.

June Sapiel, a 47-year-old member of the Penobscot Tribe in Penobscot, Maine, also rejected the idea that the protesters in North Dakota had failed.

“It’s waking people up,” she said in front of a friend’s yurt where she has been staying. “We’re going to go out there and just keep doing it.”

(Additional reporting by Timothy Mclaughlin in Chicago and Liz Hampton in Houston; Writing by Ben Klayman; Editing by Matthew Lewis)


Pope Francis addresses Vatican conference on human right to water

Pope Francis spoke to participants in a Vatican conference on the human right to water, organised by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences - RV

Pope Francis said the questions concerning the right to water are not marginal, but basic and pressing.  Basic, because where there is water there is life, and pressing, because our common home needs to be protected.

Yet we must also realise, he said, that not all water is life-giving, but only water that is safe and of good quality. The right to safe drinking water, he insisted, is a basic human right which cries out for practical solutions and needs to be given the central place it deserves in the framework of public policy. 

Our right to water, the Pope continued, gives rise to an inseparable duty. Every state, he said, is called to implement, also through juridical instruments, the Resolutions approved by the United Nations General Assembly since 2010 concerning the human right to a secure supply of drinking water. Similarly, non-state actors are required to assume their own responsibilities with respect to this right which is so decisive for the future of humanity.  

Noting that every day a thousand children die from water-related illnesses and millions of people consume polluted water, the Pope said we must give high priority to educating future generations about the gravity of the situation. 

We cannot be indifferent to these facts, he said, but rather we must work to develop a culture of care and encounter, in order to make our common home a more liveable and fraternal place, where none are excluded, but all are able to live and grow in dignity.

Please find below the official English translation of the Pope’s address:

Address of His Holiness Pope Francis to Conference on the Human Right to Water

Pontifical Academy of Sciences

23 February 2017

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Good afternoon!  I greet all of you and I thank you for taking part in this meeting concerned with the human right to water and the need for suitable public policies in this regard.  It is significant that you have gathered to pool your knowledge and resources in order to respond to this urgent need of today’s men and women.

The Book of Genesis tells us that water was there in the beginning (cf. Gen 1:2); in the words of Saint Francis of Assisi, it is “useful, chaste and humble” (cf. Canticle of the Creatures).  The questions that you are discussing are not marginal, but basic and pressing.  Basic, because where there is water there is life, making it possible for societies to arise and advance.  Pressing, because our common home needs to be protected.  Yet it must also be realized that not all water is life-giving, but only water that is safe and of good quality.

All people have a right to safe drinking water.  This is a basic human right and a central issue in today’s world (cf. Laudato Si’, 30; Caritas in Veritate, 27).  This is a problem that affects everyone and is a source of great suffering in our common home.  It also cries out for practical solutions capable of surmounting the selfish concerns that prevent everyone from exercising this fundamental right.  Water needs to be given the central place it deserves in the framework of public policy.  Our right to water is also a duty to water.  Our right to water gives rise to an inseparable duty.  We are obliged to proclaim this essential human right and to defend it – as we have done – but we also need to work concretely to bring about political and juridical commitments in this regard.  Every state is called to implement, also through juridical instruments, the Resolutions approved by the United Nations General Assembly since 2010 concerning the human right to a secure supply of drinking water.  Similarly, non-state actors are required to assume their own responsibilities with respect to this right.

The right to water is essential for the survival of persons (cf. Laudato Si’, 30) and decisive for the future of humanity.  High priority needs to be given to educating future generations about the gravity of the situation.  Forming consciences is a demanding task, one requiring conviction and dedication.

The statistics provided by the United Nations are troubling, nor can they leave us indifferent.  Each day a thousand children die from water-related illnesses and millions of persons consume polluted water.  These facts are serious; we have to halt and reverse this situation.  It is not too late, but it is urgent to realize the need and essential value of water for the good of mankind.

Respect for water is a condition for the exercise of the other human rights (cf. ibid., 30).  If we consider this right fundamental, we will be laying the foundations for the protection of other rights.  But if we neglect this basic right, how will we be able to protect and defend other rights?  Our commitment to give water its proper place calls for developing a culture of care (cf. ibid., 231) and encounter, joining in common cause all the necessary efforts made by scientists and business people, government leaders and politicians.  We need to unite our voices in a single cause; then it will no longer be a case of hearing individual or isolated voices, but rather the plea of our brothers and sisters echoed in our own, and the cry of the earth for respect and responsible sharing in a treasure belonging to all.  In this culture of encounter, it is essential that each state act as a guarantor of universal access to safe and clean water. 

God the Creator does not abandon us in our efforts to provide access to clean drinking water to each and to all.  It is my hope that this Conference will help strengthen your convictions and that you will leave in the certainty that your work is necessary and of paramount importance so that others can live.  With the “little” we have, we will be helping to make our common home a more liveable and fraternal place, where none are rejected or excluded, but all enjoy the goods needed to live and to grow in dignity. 

Thank you.


Earth’s Gravity Dips from Antarctic Ice Loss


Oct 1, 2014 01:23 PM ET // by Patrick J. Kiger

Of all the effects on the Earth from human-driven climate change, this one might be the weirdest.

The rapid loss of ice from the West Antarctica’s ice sheet between 2009 and 2012 was big enough to cause a slight dip in the Earth’s gravitational field over the region, according to the European Space Agency. Scientists based the finding upon measurements made by the agency’s GOCE satellite, which from 2009 to 2013 used new technology to map the Earth’s gravitational field in unprecedented detail.

NEWS: Massive Antarctic Iceberg Sets Sail

While we might think of gravity as being the same all over the Earth, it’s actually not quite uniform, because of variations in the Earth’s surface such as mountains, valleys, ocean trenches and, in the case of the polar regions, the ice sheets, according to NASA Earth Observatory. But since a mountain or a valley generally is in the same place from year to year, shifts in gravity in a particular spot usually only take place gradually over very long periods of geologic time.

But in the case of the west Antarctic ice sheet, change is occurring rapidly. Data from another ESA satellite, CryoSat, shows that since 2009, the West Antarctic ice sheet’s rate of shrinkage has increased each year by a factor of three.

While the change in Antarctic gravity is so slight that it wouldn’t be noticeable from the ground, it’s a warning signal.

NEWS: Antarctic Sea Ice Growth Could Reverse

The breakup of the West Antarctic ice sheet could have much more serious effects, according to NASA. It the ice disappeared completely, it would raise sea levels by as much as 16 feet. The most vulnerable portion of the sheet is the Amundsen Sea region, where the glaciers don’t have big enough ice shelves to stem ice flow, and mostly aren’t pinned down by obstructions such as islands.

Additionally, a warm current rising up from the sea bottom accentuates the instability of the ice. The breakup of the Amunden Sea ice alone could cause the planet’s oceans to rise by 4 feet.


Coca-Cola is partnering with governments, NGOs, and other companies to improve access to water, occupying a gray area where genuine charity meets corporate profit.

Coca-Cola’s river cleanup work in Tanzania shows mixed motives

DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania — For years the Mlalakua River overflowed with garbage during each heavy rain. Homes would flood with water contaminated by sewage and trash. Even in the dry season, the narrow river had a nasty grayish hue, the product of runoff from the factories situated alongside it, residents and local water experts say.

Some here call the Mlalakua River by a different name: the Coca-Cola River. The nickname comes from the red-brown hue of the water. But it may also reflect the fact that among those factories that line the river’s banks is a Coca-Cola bottling plant, one of three in Tanzania. As the world’s largest beverage retailer and one of its most recognizable brands, Coca-Cola goes to great lengths to protect its image. And a few years ago, someone at the company seems to have realized that being associated with a garbage-filled river was putting the company’s local reputation very much at risk.

So in 2012, Coca-Cola entered into a public-private partnership, or PPP, aimed at cleaning the river. The company — partnering with nearly a dozen government entities, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and other private companies — would dredge the sludge and garbage from the river, then engage the locals in a plan to keep it clean.

The effort was part of a rising trend toward public-private partnerships, a phenomenon strongly supported with $600 million in new funding by the Obama administration in recent years. Such partnerships, which have evolved over three decades, have dramatically transformed the landscape of environmental and global health projects around the world. PPPs now account for the majority of worldwide funding for a vast array of development projects.

By the accounts of Tanzanian officials, Coca-Cola’s efforts at corporate social responsibility have been genuine, and the Mlalakua River cleanup has succeeded in many practical ways. But there are also currents of criticism about the project — both from local residents and from a number of NGOs that focus on sustainable development.

“They’ll be wasting a lot of money if people continue to get sick because they are not mobilizing people to find a better way to throw out their garbage.”

~Esteria Kajuna

Critics wonder whether the cleanup was intended to achieve genuine and lasting change or to advance the short-term public relations goals of a multinational corporation.

Indeed, most water experts and residents interviewed by GlobalPost say the Mlalakua River cleanup was inherently flawed. They say that while the river is undeniably cleaner, the project did not address the root causes of the pollution: the absence of a sewer system and trash collection for the communities along the river’s banks.

A more sustainable approach, they say, would have been to engage local government and municipalities to create sewers and waste treatment plants. But that would have been far more expensive and taken more time, and there would have been no guarantee that that approach would have reaped the same public relations benefits for Coca-Cola.

So is the story of the Mlalakua River cleanup more than simply a story about a large corporation being socially responsible? A two-month investigation examines what happens when motives of good will and profit mix.

A team effort

Over the past several years, the Coca-Cola Africa Foundation has contributed $125,000, and its local Tanzanian bottler another $30,000, to clean up the Mlalakua River. Along with contributions from other companies and NGOs, the $740,000 partnership hired a Tanzanian contractor to dredge the garbage and muck using heavy machinery. Teams of community members used shovels to clear the residue that remained, leaving the river free of debris and unlikely to flood.

There is no doubt that the Mlalakua River is cleaner today than it has been in years. But there are few who believe the effort will last: Some of the factories continue to pump their dirty runoff water into the stream, ignoring laws requiring runoff permits and pollution controls.

“Not only the factories,” says Francis Mugisha, a municipal drainage engineer who supervises the project. “Even the people who live in this area are discharging their waste into the water.”

Tania Hamilton, founder of the community NGO Nipe Fagio (Give Me the Broom), which initiated the cleanup, says the government does not have the capacity to regulate.

“I’ve seen medical waste on the beach — vials of blood and syringes,” she says. “There’s no enforcement.”

If previous river cleanups in the area are any indication, the river is likely to be filled with garbage and waste within several years. What’s needed is a sewage system. There isn’t one. What’s also needed is regular trash collection. But many residents opt to throw their trash onto the river’s banks rather than pay for garbage collection.

“It’s one of many interventions that won’t be sustainable,” says Herbert Kashililah, a veteran consultant in Tanzania’s water sector. “You have to find the underlying facts of why the river is polluted.”

But Mugisha says the project is meant to be sustainable. And USAID spokesman Matthew Herrick says Coca-Cola is helping train 200 community members and 100 government officials to manage water, sanitation and hygiene in Tanzania’s Wami-Ruvu river basin.

Residents are doubtful. Esteria Kajuna, a college student who lives along the riverbank, says her roommate has been sick for two weeks with malaria, which they believe was probably caused by mosquitoes that breed in the river’s stagnant water.

“I think it will be dirty again soon, because around here there is no other place for people to throw their garbage,” she says. “They’ll be wasting a lot of money if people continue to get sick because they are not mobilizing people to find a better way to throw out their garbage.”

Just downstream, a mother of three points to a pile of fresh garbage strewn along the riverbank behind her home.

“You see here, already there is sewage being dumped right there,” says Khadija Ali, 33. “It won’t stay clean. The money for that project should be used to come collect the sewage and dump it somewhere else.”

While some critics question the effectiveness of the Mlalakua River cleanup, still others wonder why that particular river was selected for the project. After all, they say, the Mlalakua is only one of dozens of polluted rivers and streams in and around Dar es Salaam.

“The river has limited strategic value,” says one water consultant who participated in an audit of the Mlalakua River project but requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak about its findings. “There are many polluted rivers with a much higher priority for attention. Limited public resources are being focused on this little saltwater creek.”

A ‘reputational risk’

Why did Coca-Cola choose the Mlalakua River rather than a larger river in the area, and why did it opt for a quick high-profile cleanup rather than engage in a broader systematic solution, such as working with the local government to build a sewage system or launch a trash-collection program?

An e-mail from GIZ, the German contractor overseeing the cleanup, contains one possible answer: Because one of Coca-Cola’s three Tanzania bottling facilities is located on the Mlalakua, pollution of the river “creates a reputational risk for local businesses, including Coca-Cola Kwanza, who are wrongly perceived to be polluting the ‘Coca-Cola River,’ as it is locally known.”

Sophie Mueller, who oversees the project for GIZ, says that, in fact, Coca-Cola Kwanza is one of only two companies along the river that have actually implemented water treatment systems and have discharge permits. And a top Coca-Cola Kwanza official says the Tanzanian government has publicly lauded the bottling company.

“The minister of environment actually visited our plant, and he even … mentioned on national television that there’s one plant that meets all the requirements, and that was the Coca-Cola plant,” says Basil Gadzios, Coca-Cola Kwanza’s managing director.

The bottling plant doesn’t even draw its water from the river, so it has no direct stake in how clean it is. What is at stake is Coca-Cola’s reputation.

“There is a lot of pollution with the river and a lot of contamination, and Coca-Cola is very often still being held responsible for that,” says Mueller — even though it isn’t. “They don’t want people to say, ‘Well, probably it’s Coca-Cola that’s polluting the river.’”

Asked if public relations is one of the principal motivations behind Coca-Cola philanthropy, Gadzios says: “It’s one of many. It’s not the driving thing. It’s not about advertising our brand; we’ve got budgets for that.”

In a statement, Coca-Cola said its community water projects, including the Mlalakua River cleanup, “are selected based on the needs of the community and are a collective decision that involves all stakeholders involved in the project.”

Adds Mueller: “The benefit for the community is at least as big as the one for Coca-Cola to promote that they did something. If they just wanted PR and quick wins without long-term results, they could have done that easier … putting up a big sign announcing that Coke collected garbage from around the plant. By engaging in this partnership … they are trying to ensure that it does have a sustainable outcome.”

Mueller says the Mlalakua River cleanup was a test project for Coca-Cola and the other partners that may lead to more robust cleanups in the future.

Whatever its intentions, whatever it represents, the Mlalakuka River cleanup is one small component of the big new trend in foreign aid that is public-private partnerships.

“There are trends on the continent that are changing, meaning that governments no longer want an aid recipient relationship — they want more partnerships, they want more investments,” said Raja Jandhyala, USAID deputy administrator for Africa, during a July 2012 panel.

Over nearly a decade Coca-Cola has invested at least $266 million in partnerships with aid agencies and companies to improve access to water in communities worldwide. One of the first is the Water and Development Alliance (WADA), which began in 2005 as an alliance with USAID to provide clean drinking water to nearly 200,000 people by 2015.

In 2009, Coca-Cola launched its Replenish Africa Initiative (RAIN), with the goal of providing access to clean water to 2 million people by 2015 through projects in each African nation. Help is especially needed in Tanzania, where less than half the population has adequate access to clean water. The Mlalakua River cleanup is one such project.

“Our core expertise is not in cleaning up rivers or making it sustainable,” says Gadzios, Coca-Cola Kwanza’s managing director. “That’s where the [Coca-Cola Africa] Foundation comes in. They actually do the analysis, they see about the sustainability, they engage with local authorities and local municipalities. You as a corporate, you can’t do it yourself.”

In its many public-private partnerships, Coca-Cola collaborates with USAID and works through the framework of what the agency calls Global Development Alliances. The idea is to identify where goals of USAID overlap with goals of the private sector, then develop a program of mutual benefit. In general, Coca-Cola will help fund a given initiative coordinated by USAID and contracted out to private implementing partners.

According to USAID administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah, “USAID’s partnership with Coca-Cola showcases the potential of the US government to partner with the private sector to make a long-term impact on pressing global challenges.”

More from GlobalPost: In Tanzania, Coke improves medical distributions

Coca-Cola’s mystery work

The Mlalakua River cleanup is one of at least 468 community partnerships in which Coca-Cola has participated in more than 100 countries around the globe. It is one of six current Coca-Cola partnerships in Tanzania involving USAID, which include providing drinking water in rural schools and protecting water sources from pollutants.

But Coca-Cola and its partners refused to reveal the exact locations of any of these projects during a reporting trip to Tanzania in June. And during 13 days of reporting through the country, no evidence was found of their existence. Rather, one of Coca-Cola’s principal implementing partners, the Global Environment and Technology Foundation (GETF), later invited the reporter to attend what appeared to be a staged event scheduled for the week after he was to leave the country.

Some residents of villages in north-central Tanzania, where Coca-Cola’s water-in-schools initiative is supposedly under way, said they would enthusiastically invite the corporation to come try its hand at improving water access there. But none were aware of any initiatives thus far.

“Yes, they should come,” said Nasol Nasoli Omari, chairman of the village of Masagali. “We are waiting.”

No one doubts that Coca-Cola and its partners are implementing these programs, somewhere. But the corporation’s unwillingness to reveal the locations without first organizing a carefully structured visit raises questions about the complications that can arise when many stakeholders become involved — each wanting recognition for, and ownership over, a project.

Are these partnerships truly a collaborative effort between public and private sector entities? Or is the work merely contracted off to a company, much in the way it has always been done? And how is the public able to judge these partnerships if they are kept out of the public eye, their whereabouts hidden from journalists?

Those in Tanzania’s Ministry of Water say Coca-Cola does have a lot to show for its investment in water here.

“Coca-Cola is one of the companies that has shown a very good interest in conservation of the environment [and] working with water user associations,” says Joseph Kakunda, the director of the ministry’s water program coordination unit.

But water experts familiar with Coca-Cola’s work in Tanzania say it takes a lot more than money to fix the country’s complicated, and extensive, water problems.

“They do spend a lot of money,” says Nick Hepworth of Water Witness International, an organization that works to improve the way that rivers, lakes, and aquifers are managed in developing countries. “We’re interested in whether it actually advances water here or not.”

Managing countries’ water

Coca-Cola is not new to Tanzania. The company opened its first bottling plant here in 1952, and it remains the country’s foremost beverage retailer. Globally, Coca-Cola uses 300 independent bottling companies at 850 plants in 200 countries. In 2006 it became the largest corporate consumer of water in the world, according to statistics compiled by JP Morgan. The company has a direct stake in ensuring that the principal ingredient in its products — water — remains available and accessible for decades to come, not only in Tanzania, but around the world.

To that end, since 2012 Coke has invested at least $2 million in the 2030 Water Resources Group, a collaboration by the International Finance Corporation (the private arm of the World Bank) and corporations with a stake in water. The group offers to advise countries on how to better manage their water. As early as 2007, Coca-Cola contributed $500,000 toward a similar partnership with USAID to improve management of water resources in Tanzania.

But watchdogs fear Coca-Cola’s involvement in the 2030 Water Resources Group is merely another way of looking out for its own interests.

“It’s hard to know what influence their interference and advising to the government is having,” says Shayda Naficy, director of the International Water Campaign at the Boston-based watchdog group Corporate Accountability International. “Our concern is that one of the world’s leading development institutions — the World Bank Group — is playing a role in opening doors and in fact driving water privatization,” she said. “Their stated goal is to transform the water sector.”

Already, many in Tanzania’s water sector are questioning whether such an initiative is even necessary. In 2004 Tanzania established a National Water Board that essentially serves this same purpose.

“They are duplicating what’s already been done on the ground,” says Kashililah, the water consultant. “In that case, there’s going to be more confusion than progress. I don’t think the forum is likely to achieve its mission, because it’s way outside the current context in Tanzania.”

Bashir Mrindoko, Tanzania’s permanent secretary for water, defends the involvement of Coca-Cola and the 2030 WRG — at least, insofar as it takes a limited, clearly defined role. “They have to participate — not to advise, not to put them in my board — but to contribute resources.”

Some fear the 2030 WRG intends to sway governments to make decisions about water emphasizing financial and economic metrics rather than operating under the principle that water access should be universal and even free. The United Nations Declaration on Human Rights states that “everyone has the right to clean and accessible water,” and that “no one shall be deprived of such access or quality of water due to individual economic circumstance.”

But private water companies argue that water is a commodity and a service that, just like any other, comes with an explicit price tag to furnish, clean, and pump to where it’s needed. These companies tend to advocate for privatization of water on the basis that competition by private companies is the best way to ensure revenue can be collected to keep the water flowing.

An inauspicious start

Tanzania is well versed in the concept of water privatization. In 1997 the World Bank gave Tanzania’s government an incentive to quickly divest from parastatal companies, offering to increase its financing to the water sector by 50 percent if the country would quickly privatize. In 2000 the bank convinced Tanzania to privatize the public water company in Dar es Salaam.

The move was a disaster for Tanzania’s most water-needy citizens: A report by Action Aid found that 95 percent of the funds were slated to be spent servicing the wealthiest 20 percent of the population. A private company needs to generate revenue, after all, so it follows that the first people to be serviced would be the ones most able to pay.

The result: “Households that refuse to pay simply face higher water bills and are threatened with disconnection,” the report says. “Even households who do pay are sometimes disconnected, because City Water disconnects whole areas in an attempt to get those with illegal connections to pay up.”

Two years after it began, the program abruptly ended.

“Tanzania was one of the big failures that caused the World Bank to pull back on privatization,” Naficy says. “Now, through direct funding of the private sector and advisory initiatives like the 2030 WRG, it’s the IFC, the private arm, that’s taking that up.”

Among the Group’s stated goals is “catalyzing specific public-private transformations in the water sector.”

Whatever their intentions, private companies like Coca-Cola are realizing they have an enormous stake in water here and in making sure water is sustained for their own use. Coca-Cola and the 2030 WRG are merely the newest voices in a debate over who, ultimately, should wield the most influence over decisions about water in Tanzania: the government or the collective of individuals and private businesses that use it.

“With the WRG 2030 establishing a mutistakeholder advisory body on water resources, you’re talking about a private sector-led entity taking over the role of a publicly mandated entity to do a similar job,” says Hepworth, of Water Witness International. Although when done correctly such partnerships can spur progress, he says, it remains to be seen whether the IFC’s 2030 WRG will advocate for its partner companies, including Coca-Cola, at the expense of the greatest common good for the Tanzanian population.

The 2030 WRG raises fundamental questions about the viability of public-private partnerships and the potential problems that could occur as they continue to replace traditional single-stakeholder initiatives. By their nature, public-private partnerships are forums for mutual gain. But not every cause worth supporting is a cause in which major private companies like Coca-Cola hold a stake.

“It comes back to the values of the organization,” says Gadzios, of Coca-Cola Kwanza. “You might have some organizations that only do things that benefit themselves.” But Coca-Cola, Gadzios says, isn’t one of those.

“If you have the values of a company where they say, ‘It’s not purely about focusing on the brand and what we get, it’s about contributing back to the countries and the communities that we operate in,’ I think that’s ultimately going to motivate our priorities.”

More from GlobalPost: Across Africa, Coke is empowering women — to sell Coke products

Mass water shutoffs in Detroit, Mich., are making news around the world


Oppose Detroit Water Shutoffs

Mass water shutoffs in Detroit, Mich., are making news around the world. The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) has begun disconnecting water from households that have been unable to pay their water bills. In May alone, the DWSD served 46,000 shutoff notices and executed over 4,000. Local community leaders say the numbers are closer to 3,000 per week.

Water is a basic human right. People need water for drinking, bathing, and even flushing the toilet! At the same time the utility is issuing mass shutoff notices, it raised the cost of water 8.7 percent.

Who will be most hurt by Detroit’s water shutoffs? Individuals and families, including infants, children, people living with disabilities, people who are chronically ill, and the elderly. Their health is at risk without adequate water and sanitation. Child Protective Services must, by law, move to protect children in homes without adequate water and sanitation — children may be taken from their parents and put into foster care.

What happens in Detroit will impact tens of thousands of people and send a message to the rest of the country. DWSD is the third largest provider of drinking water and wastewater treatment services in the United States. We need to take action now to protect families in Detroit and to ensure that clean drinking water in the United States does not become a luxury good.

Take action now: Sign the statement below. Help us send a strong message to Detroit’s emergency manager and water utility director. Help stop mass shutoffs and protect residents of this great American city. Help defend the human right to water.


Water is not a luxury good. It is a basic human right due to all people, including low-income individuals and families.

As a person of conscience, I oppose water shutoffs that affect people who cannot afford to pay and whose family integrity and health are at great risk. It is morally wrong to shut off water to individuals and families, including infants, children, people living with disabilities, people who are chronically ill, and the elderly.

I respectfully call on Emergency Manager Kevyn D. Orr and Detroit Water and Sewerage Department Director Susan McCormick to immediately stop mass water shutoffs in Detroit and immediately restore water services to households at risk. I also request that they put into place protections for infants and children under six years of age, the elderly, chronically ill people, and those living with disabilities — all for whom a water shutoff is an extraordinary burden and risk to health and family.

Unitarian Universalist Service Committee

689 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02139-3302

p 617-868-6600 | f 617-868-7102


A Thirsty California Puts a Premium on Excess Water Use


SANTA CRUZ, Calif. — The municipal water utility in this city, home to wide beaches, sun-kissed weekend getaways and evocative alternative scholarship, just got tough. Last week it started rationing water — for nonfarmers, the most draconian response to date to California’s debilitating drought.

The message to customers: Use more than your allotment, and it will cost you. A lot. Water bills below the allocation run $40 or so. Go above it, and fines pegged to the amount of excess water used will quickly double, triple or quadruple that bill.

“We live in a state where water supplies that are there 100 percent of the time, with 100 percent of reliability, don’t exist,” said Toby Goddard, the administrative services manager for the Santa Cruz Water Department. “It would be shortsighted of a utility to sell all it has to you now and not have anything for you a year out.”

Santa Cruz, whose fresh water supplies come from the shrinking San Lorenzo River and a small reservoir, has gone further than other strapped utilities in embracing the idea of rationing, with fines for those who exceed their allotted shares. But other utilities around the state now have a tiered pricing system. Basic water use comes cheap. Consumption that is compatible with modest landscaping comes at a slightly higher cost. Excessive use comes at premium prices.


Some residents are installing low-flow hose nozzles to reduce water consumption.  Credit Ramin Rahimian for The New York Times

California’s utilities, like the East Bay Municipal Utility District near San Francisco or the Eastern Municipal Water District in Southern California’s sprawling Inland Empire, use their bills to drive home the ethic of conservation. “Thirty years ago, everybody took costs and divided by anticipated sales and found an average rate,” said Tim Quinn, the head of the Association of California Water Agencies, or ACWA.

“We haven’t lived in that world for over 30 years.”

During that time, he said, utilities worked to change the equipment in people’s homes, backing building-code requirements for low-flow toilets, water-restricting shower heads and washing machines and dishwashers with low water consumption. “Now we’re trying to change behavior,” he said.

The message irritates some people, particularly those with mansions surrounded by lush lawns and ornamental plantings. One person from a district just south of here was playing golf with Mr. Quinn at a Monterey country club recently. When he learned that his golf partner worked in water services, the man complained bitterly about his $5,000 monthly bill. Mr. Quinn replied, “I think your water agency is trying to tell you something.”

In some places, that message has become more personal. Starting about two decades ago, in water districts in Southern California like Irvine Ranch and San Juan Capistrano, rate-setters decided that the fairest way to encourage conservation was to assess how much each individual account needed and then to set tiers. A family with six children needed more essential water than a family with two; a house in a warm, dry microclimate needed more than a house shrouded in fog.

This process of water “budgeting” is now in place in 20 of the more than 700 California water districts, and it is spreading fast. “It’s what everyone is shifting toward,” said Abby Figuero, a spokeswoman for the East Bay Municipal Utility District. “It’s based on efficiency.

Those who are inefficient pay more,” said Paul D. Jones II, the general manager of the Eastern Municipal Water District.


Conservation has been a way of life for many years in Santa Cruz; collecting rain water for reuse is one such method.   Credit Ramin Rahimian for The New York Times

Continue reading the main story

Water budgeting, known in the industry as “allocation pricing,” may violate California law, which requires that the cost of a government service like water delivery be based on the cost of providing the service. But its cousin, tiered pricing, has suffered a legal setback. In August, an Orange County judge ruled that San Juan Capistrano’s water agency had not sufficiently tied its establishment of water tiers to the cost of serving those tiers.

The consulting firm Raftelis Financial Consultants is working with the agency to establish a legally defensible link between the newly adjusted tiered pricing and the cost of providing pipes, water storage and other services. Sanjay Gaur, a manager for Raftelis, said that, in general, as monthly water bills around the state have increased to almost $50 from about $30, customers are noticing.

“The water industry in the past has been hidden — people didn’t know where they got their water,” Mr. Gaur said. “Now, because of the drought, things are going to another level. People are going to pay more attention.”

In Santa Cruz, they have been paying attention for years. Conservation has been a way of life here for a generation, since a bad drought in the late 1980s. Now, in the summer months, the Santa Cruz water district sends, on average, a total of 188 million gallons a month to its 21,700 residential customers – 94,000 people. In the winter months, it sends 131 million gallons.

These amounts represent about a 30 percent drop from what was used in 1987, before the last major drought. Paradoxically, conservation has been so ingrained, Mr. Goddard said, that it is difficult for customers to find ways to save more. The new limit on monthly residential use is less than 7,500 gallons.

Local residents want to help – though they may not want to pay more.

“We’ve used too much water for too long. We’ve become wasteful,” said Marilyn Berg, 76, who with her husband, Joe, owns a three-bedroom, three-and-a-half-bath, two-story home in town that is frequently rented.

Are the new fines fair? “Absolutely,” Mr. Berg said.

“It’s fair but it’s tough,” Mrs. Berg added. “They are hitting our pocketbooks pretty hard.”