13 Dec 2010

Good report, bad report

Bad news first: Food and Water Watch has a new "briefing" called Priceless: The Market Myth of Water Pricing Reform. I put briefing in quotes because this propaganda hackjob...
  1. Uses selective quotations of academic articles that are cut and pasted to create a quasi-scientific impression that FWW is doing analysis when they are really rationalizing a foregone conclusion.
  2. Is full of false assumptions attributed to FWW's non-existent, straw-men opponents. For example, FWW says "Water pricing reform alone is no panacea for America’s water-management challenges...Water is essential to life; commodifying access to water treads on the basic human right to water." These words are misleading. First, nobody claims that water pricing alone will solve water-management challenges. Second, SOME water is essential to life but the rest of the water (even freshwater) CAN be commodified -- as is true in Australia and Chile -- without fear of killing thousands.
  3. Confounds water uses (8 percent goes to household use, so we can't look at that) with reforms (lots of water is lost in leaky pipes, so we have to repair them) in an attempt to eat their cake and have it.
  4. Spends 20 pages (and MY time) on hand waving towards their old idea: spend more money on public water infrastructure.
Even though I agree with FWW's stated aims (let's manage water well, to maximize social benefits), I am appalled by their biased distortions of alternative ideas of how to address mismanagement.

Now, the good news is that the CEO Water Mandate (a joint project of the UN Global Compact and Pacific Institute) has put out an excellent Guide to Responsible Business Engagement with Water Policy [PDF]. Here's why:
It is difficult for companies to mitigate water-related business risks if they only look internally; many risks stem from external factors, such as local environmental conditions and public water policy and management. Among many other roles, water policy sets out how water use is prioritized and how allocation decisions are made in the face of limited supplies, establishes water prices, sets quality standards and safeguard measures to control pollution, and builds and maintains the infrastructure that delivers water services. Even if “formal” public water policy is adequate on paper, in practice, it can suffer from low levels of priority and funding and a lack of implementation and enforcement. These conditions, in turn, can exacerbate water scarcity, pollution, and infrastructure problems, creating or amplifying social, environmental, economic, and business risks. These issues are of particular concern in emerging economies and developing countries, where public institutions often lack adequate resources and impoverished communities and sensitive ecosystems are highly vulnerable to the consequences of unsustainable water management practices.


This Guide emphasizes that the management of water remains a governmental mandate and that responsible engagement requires that private-sector actions align with public policy objectives. The Guide further recognizes that companies will face water management regimes along a broad continuum from highly functional to dysfunctional and that company decisions related to the scope, nature, and degree of engagement must vary accordingly.
Bottom Line: Ignore the rubbish from FWW; read the more-accurate, more-thoughtful analysis of failure and solutions from the CEO Water Mandate.

HT to WH