New Constitution: an end to the commodification of water

It is urgent that the New Constitution change the legal nature of water, to allow its access and distribution for nature and communities over productive activities, and establish a new regulation of use on the natural commons for the territories over the forms of business economic production that today own the vital element.
My institutional relationship with water began when 6 years ago I built together with the Union of Rural Drinking Water Systems (APRs) Petorca River basin, the first Office of Water Affairs in Petorca, a fact that led me to see in a rude way the hoarding of water in large dams and the technification of irrigation in the hills, as well as the consequences of the violent neoliberal model of the waters in Chile.
From the technical contribution to the discussion on water, a report of experts on climate crisis (IPCC) of the UN warned of the rapid advance of the desert towards the central area of our country. Currently, Valparaíso faces the worst drought in its history, with a rainfall deficit of 75%, likewise, Petorca has had a water deficit above 80% sustained for more than 10 years, a situation is repeated throughout the country, at the moment 184 communes are under decree of water scarcity.
But the climate crisis is not the only cause of the emergency we face today, rivers and water sources are being overexploited. Already in 2015, there were 110 aquifers granted in the country, in simple words, it is overexploited by allowing more water to be extracted than the river could recharge. On the other hand, there is an excessive water demand on ecosystems that prevents aquifers from being recharged, for example, the water demand of the avocado is between 5 and 14 times greater than the native spinal ecosystem.
Water becomes scarce, but not for everyone equally. It is outrageous to see that there is water to irrigate hills of avocados, while families do not have water to drink, a situation legalized in the constitution of 80 that still governs us, which leaves the distribution of water in the hands of the market, this is in the hands of the holders of water rights, to whom it was and is delivered free of charge and perpetually.
Today we are writing a new Constitution and the issue of water is inescapable. In the face of scarcity we must make decisions that affect particular interests in pursuit of the common good and who says otherwise is the one who must give up their excessive privileges, since any real solution to the crisis we face implies reducing and redistributing water consumption over its hoarding.
The initiative of norm “Statute of Water, human access, organic and other transitory provisions”, is the result of the work carried out by different groups and forces, belonging to Modatima, MAT and Eco Constituyentes. This standard had the support of 83 constituents and presents a global solution to address the issue of water in Chile.
The norm we propose establishes that the human right to water and sanitation constitute indispensable guarantees for life, dignity and health. And that every person, without arbitrary discrimination, has the right to sufficient, safe, acceptable, drinkable, pollution-free, physically accessible and affordable water economically for personal and domestic use. In addition, it sets water use priorities: first, the human right to water and sanitation, along with the health and balance of ecosystems; secondly, the ancestral uses of indigenous peoples: thirdly, food sovereignty, while the use of the remaining water will be defined in each territory.
This norm ends with the commodification of waters, declares that water is a natural common good. Which means that the State will authorize the use of the waters, but these authorizations will be inappropriable, inducible, non-transferable, temporary and subject to obligations of use. In addition, it is recognized that indigenous peoples and nations pre-existing to the state are collective owners of the waters that exist in their lands and territories.
We want a new Constitution that ends the commodification of water and the scandalous water inequality that we live today. Knowing that we face great particular interests, we need the support of all to establish a new deal, fairer and more respectful of nature, on water in Chile.

The content expressed in this opinion column is the sole responsibility of its author, and does not necessarily reflect the editorial line or position of El Mostrador.

Original source in Spanish

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