Popular Resistance to Corporate Water Grabbing

by Vins
Published: Updated:

Today’s water wars occur on a global scale, not only pitting local farmers against ranchers or urbanites, but also involving new corporate water barons, including Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, the Carlyle Group and other investment groups that are purchasing water rights from around the world at an unprecedented pace. At the same time, corporate efforts to privatize water rights are increasingly meeting robust grass roots resistance. Over the past fifteen years, Victoria Collier reports for CounterPunch, there have been 180 cases of water “remunicipalization,” with water control returned from private ownership to the public, in 35 countries.

The fast-growing “public-private-partnership” or PPP model is a marketing euphemism for privatization. PPPs facilitate the transfer of public utilities, like water, to profit-driven private corporations. New Jersey became the latest state to subvert democracy by authorizing the fast-track sale of water utilities without public notice, comment, or approval. The controversial decision highlights the intensifying struggle over who owns, controls, and profits from water.

As California enters a drought of epic proportions—the state has only one year of water supply in its reservoirs, and the backup supply, groundwater, is rapidly disappearing—numerous companies are poised to take advantage of the state’s water crisis, which they see as a commodity boom.

There are two things we can do: First, instead of fighting over limited groundwater resources, we can support programs to increase the water supply (e.g., through capturing rainwater, moisture condensation, desalinization, and mantel water); second, advocate for effective water management, including the most efficient use and reuse of water and protecting water rights from privatization.


Victoria Collier, “Citizens Mobilize Against Corporate Water Grabs,” Counter Punch, February 11, 2015, www.counterpunch.org/2015/02/11/citizens-mobilize-against-corporate-water-grabs.

Ellen Brown, “California Water Wars: Another Form of Asset Stripping?”, Nation of Change, March 25, 2015, www.nationofchange.org/2015/03/25/california-water-wars-another-form-of-asset-stripping.

Jennifer Franco, Timothé Feodoroff, Sylvia Kay, Satoko Kishimoto, and Gloria Pracucci, “The Global Water Grab: A Primer,” Transnational Institute of Policy Studies and Hands Off the Land Alliance, March 2014, www.tni.org/sites/www.tni.org/files/download/the_global_water_grab.pdf

“International Coalition Against Water Grabbing”, Water Grabbing, March 26, 2015, http://watergrabbing.net/2015/03/26/special-tunis-wsf2015-international-coalition-against-water-grabbing.

Student Researcher: Antonio Arenas (San Francisco State University)

Faculty Evaluator: Kenn Burrows (San Francisco State University)